Here are my current Giveaway Contests

Meowloween Giveaway Hop through October 20th

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

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

Tori Sharp Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 11/18/20

Maria Vincente Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/7/20

Amy Brewer and Dana Swift Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 1/18/21

Tricia Skinner Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 1/20/21

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.

Agent Spotlight: Melanie Castillo Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

 Today I’m thrilled to have agent Melanie Castillo here. She is a literary agent at Root Literary.

 Hi­ Melanie! Thanks so much for joining us.

 About Melanie:

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

I started my career in editorial, working with children’s and adult nonfiction titles at a Southern California publishing house and, later, as a freelancer. But back in grad school, I worked closely with a local publishing professional who mentored me. She once looked at me and abruptly said, “Melanie, I know you think you’re an editor, but you’re not. You’re an agent.” I never forgot her conviction. and I constantly kept an eye out for LA agency opportunities while knowing that, ultimately, breaking into that side of publishing would likely require a move to NY. Instead, I joined Root Literary as an agency assistant in 2018.

That first year I helped the agency find authors like Cameron Lund, Jessica Lewis, and Kim Neville, the last of which ended up being one of the first clients I signed when I started building a list of my own. I’m really proud of the list I’ve built over the last year. I’ve made a home for myself and my clients at Root Literary, and I love working with smart, capable, kind, and quite frankly bad ass women every day.

I work primarily on MG, YA, and adult books. The first of those books will come out next year: Sarah Prineas’s Trouble in the Stars (Philomel, 4/27/21), Kim Neville’s The Memory Collectors (Atria, 3/16/21), and Kate Sweeney’s Catch the Light (Philomel, Fall 2021). There’s an art to building a list and finding your stride as an agent, but it’s a borderline alchemical thing I sometimes struggle to put words to. At the agency, we tell all our new hires that we believe in shine theory, and it’s true. But it extends to our clients, too. To all the people we work with. And when I think about my role in this industry and both my professional and personal goals, that’s what it really comes down to. I was raised on stories. And now I want to shine a light on the people who create them because when they shine, we all shine.

 About the Agency:

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

Literary agent Holly Root launched over two dozen New York Times bestsellers before founding Root Literary in 2017. The agency's clients benefit from our agents' proven skills in identifying talent, negotiating advantageous deals, and advocating for our books all the way from submission to publication. We offer our clients broad-based industry insights as well as individualized strategic thinking to empower each author to define and pursue their own unique path to success. We love what we do, and we do it best in partnership with authors who combine skillful storytelling with the drive to build a lasting body of work.

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 MG and YA across genres. But while I’m open to pretty much anything (it’s less what is this and more can I sell it—or do I know how to guide this author—for me), I tend to gravitate the most toward science fiction and fantasy, anything with an element of mystery or suspense, and speculative and literary fiction. I do love a good romcom or contemporary romance, too. Distilling down what I’m looking for in these genres is always tricky. A story that takes elements we all know and makes them feel fresh and new. That lets the characters drive the plot. That gets an emotional reaction out of the reader, a laugh, a cry, the swoons. But also fear, anger, a sense of being seen.

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

I want to see stories from creators of all backgrounds, but I’d especially love more Latinx submissions. I’m also really hungry for an intersectional YA romcom and grounded YA SFF. Those stories are fun because readers have an easier time casting themselves in one of the roles—they’re accessible but escapist. And to be clear, grounded does not mean unimaginative. I once read a book set on an ice planet that was incredibly grounded.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

I don’t currently represent picture books. But as a rule, I try not to limit myself. The truth is that I can hang with almost any genre.

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?

I see my clients as business and creative partners. Having a relationship that’s built on mutual respect, transparency, and trust is so critical to our ability to have an open dialogue. I want my clients to feel like they can be themselves around me, and that includes being able to clearly communicate their dreams and ideas and goals. Together, we strategize about how to make it all happen. But I understand that career goals and the stories someone’s drawn to can change over time. I sign people as much as I do projects. I can grow alongside people, hopefully for many projects to come.

I’m often initially drawn to voice or style when considering a new client. I love hearing about what else they’re working on because the ability to craft high concepts is so crucial to making a splash in the market. Plot’s important, of course, but it’s the part of the writing process that others can help you with (your agent and editor, critique partners and beta readers, etc.) and the thing most likely to change as you revise. But there aren’t any particular voices I’m drawn to more than others—I just want to read something that feels honest.

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?

I get a little squirrely when people ask me this question. I work really hard after signing a client to ensure that my role is very clearly delineated from that of their editor. Even if we haven’t put a deal together yet. It’s good to establish that dynamic early on. So in short, no, I wouldn’t call myself an editorial agent. But others might, so it’s not that simple. I’ve never been quite sure where the line is drawn—what makes an agent one or the other. I read through a manuscript several times before taking it out on submission. That first read is usually the “purest” one, where I do my best to be a reader first and foremost while jotting down the occasional note. The second read comes after I sign a client. It’s when I metaphorically crack my knuckles and dive deep into the beats of a story, lock down the worldbuilding, track character motivations and goals, and point out places where the author could lean in more or pull back. Together we take a story as far as we possibly can, understanding that when we sell it, the editor who buys the book will have their own shared vision with the author—that we’re only just getting started. After that second read, I send my clients an editorial letter and in-line comments directly on the manuscript. Sometimes we go over the letter together on the phone, brainstorming and making sure we’re on the same page. From there, it’s a mixture of gut instinct, what my clients need, and honoring the story we’re trying to put out in the world together. This is where that alchemy I mentioned earlier comes into play. I know when my time with a story has come to an end. That’s when the creative side of my job takes backseat to the business side.

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?

Authors can start the querying process by reviewing our agency guidelines at We ask for the usual when it comes to query letters—the pitch for the work itself, a little about yourself, and the first ten pages of the manuscript. It’s both helpful and interesting to see what comp titles you include, but it’s not necessarily a requirement.

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

A query letter is kind of like a cover letter for a job you’re applying to. The best cover letters I’ve read are personable and professional. That’s a balance you can strike with a query letter too. I’m not a huge fan of queries written from a character’s POV or in the third person. Just be yourself. I also don’t love when authors try to assure me that their book will be a bestseller or the next big blockbuster and, to a lesser extent, that they see this project being book one in a five-book series and have already written more—it shows me that they might not have done enough research on the market or book publishing process as a whole.. I work with a lot of debuts, to be clear, and don’t expect the clients I sign to know everything. But having a certain foundation of knowledge shows me that you’ve done your homework and that being a part of this industry is not something you’ve entered into on a whim but thought through seriously.

Response Time:

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

I try my best to respond to queries within eight to ten weeks, but sometimes life happens or messages get lost in cyberspace, so if you haven’t heard from me during that window I always appreciate a nudge.

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?

Yes, I am and have signed clients who’ve done both. There are scenarios in which self-publishing may even have a role as a line of business for an author who also traditionally publishes. Find an agent who understands your individual career goals and can help you make sense of which paths are the best way forward for you. But know that your agent can be most helpful and provide the best value in getting your work in front of editors at larger or mid-size houses, which don’t often accept unagented submissions. And you’ll have better luck submitting a project that hasn’t been published anywhere before.

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?

The role of an agent will always be to advocate for their authors. The publishing landscape and market is always changing, as has the way professionals working within the industry do business, but the fundamental role of an agent has stayed fairly consistent throughout. What’s changed more, perhaps, is the role of an author. More than ever, today’s authors are expected to be business owners and social media gurus and marketing and publicity experts. They’re expected to do signings and attend events. Authors are brands. And if an author doesn’t have these skills, then they take it upon themselves to learn or hire someone else who does. Doing less of that work yourself is, in theory, the benefit of publishing traditionally at a larger house. But even then, it’s a partnership. If you want a successful career, you’ll have to understand that the work doesn’t end once the book is written or even after its edited.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

Avis Cardella, Caris Avendaño Cruz, Kate Sweeney, Kim Neville, Lakita Wilson, M.T. Khan, Sarah Prineas

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.

I’ve only ever attended conferences as an agent, so this may be my first interview!

Links and Contact Info:

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

Up-to-date submission guidelines can be found at, and you can stay in touch @wellmelsbells on Twitter and Instagram.

Additional Advice:

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

This business requires both talent and tenacity. I can’t tell you how many queries I have passed on where I knew that the author was surely just a few books away from getting that offer. Those ones are especially tough. You can see the spark and the drive and the instincts, but for a variety of reasons, you know that the project they’re querying isn’t there yet and that you don’t have the vision to get it across the finish line. But people give up early on in their writing career. The perfectionist in each of us struggles to accept that the first few times we do anything, the result won’t be as pretty as we’d like it to be. Writing—and certainly making it in the world of traditional publishing—is like an endurance sport in that way. You just have to keep going and build the right muscles. The right story, the right people, the right moment will find you, and you’ll want to be ready for it.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Melanie.

­Melanie 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 November 7th.  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

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.

Guest Post: Agent Adria Goetz and Author G.Z. Schmidt and No Ordinary Thing and Query Critique Giveaway

 Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author G.Z. Schmidt and her agent Adria Goetz here to share about G.Z.'s MG time travel No Ordinary Thing. It sounds like a fun time travel story, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Adam is whisked away from his imperfect but quiet life with the arrival of a stranger and a magical promise in this time travel mystery.

Time traveling is no ordinary thing, but that’s what awaits 12-year-old Adam when he finds a snow globe that allows him to journey into the past. The snow globe whisks Adam from his home and introduces him to a succession of unusual characters along the way. Strangely, each individual seems to have a past that is interwoven with Adam’s own.

100 years ago in the streets of New York City, the famous magician and candlemaker extraordinaire Elbert the Excellent hopes to dazzle the world with his magic, but instead stumbles upon a mysterious entity known as “the time touch.”

As the two storylines unravel, they reveal a single thread that ties Adam and Elbert’s pasts together. At the center of their histories lies an abandoned candle factory, a factory that claimed multiple lives in a tragic fire years ago… one that Adam might be able to prevent.

Follower News

Before I get to my guest post, I have some follower news to share.

A. Kidd has released a MG fantasy The Healing Star. Here's a blurb and few links: 
Stars with healing powers are falling from the sky. Feisty fourth-grader Julia’s best friend in the entire universe is her grandmother, but then Grammu catches the disappearing disease and little by little, she’s turning invisible. If Julia can catch a falling star, then her wish to save Grammu will come true. All Julia needs to do now is find the legendary ladder to the stars…

To purchase:

For signed copies, email

Author page:

Lisa Richman has a MG contemporary Tavi Tails The Diary of a Dog. Here is a blurb and a few links:

Tavi Tails - The Diary of a Dog explores the world through the eyes of a dog. Tavi’s mom, a teacher, comes home from school, distraught over a student’s suicide. Tavi knew then that his job was to share everything he learned, hoping that no matter how sad they might be, humans will pick to stay. He helps people laugh and think, and offers a unique perspective on family, loyalty, and love.

Amazon link:

G.Z. Schmidt and Adria Goetz Guest Post

Now here's G.Z. and Adria!

Agent: Adria Goetz Answers
  1. What draws you to a manuscript in the query inbox? For me, I need to fall in love with the
    concept first, in order to make it to the pages. The concept needs to feel exciting and distinctive to me. When I read your query, for example, I saw "time traveling snow globe", and a "dual timeline", and I was instantly hooked. And then I opened up the pages and was drawn in by the mysterious tone and atmosphere of your writing, and the fluid sentence-level writing that is so gripping as a reader. So in order for me to make it to the pages, I really need to see a strong concept that feels exciting and irresistible.  

  2. What's your turnaround time for submissions? I try to respond to all initial queries within two weeks. If I request a full manuscipt or additional submission materials, it will take me longer, but I typically give the writer a timeframe so they can anticipate when they'll receive a response from me, and when they can follow up if they haven't heard back. 
  3. Is there anything (story, genre, trope) you're particularly hungry for these days? I'm particularly looking to build up my adult fiction list right now, in the following categories: thrillers, romantic comedies, and women's fiction. On the kid lit side of things, I'm hungry for more submissions from picture book author/illustrators, and graphic novelists. 
  4. I noticed you recently ventured into the world of adult books. What are the key differences you look for in adult fiction vs children's fiction? Yes! I'm excited. I think the main difference is that I'm much more picky about the adult books I work on. With kid lit, I'm open to a lot of different types of genres and formats, but with adult fiction, I'm very narrowly looking to represent thrillers, romantic comedies, and book club-type women's fiction. 
  5. Lastly, if you were in the book No Ordinary Thing, which piece of the time touch would you have: the snow globe, the pendulum, or the music box? Am I boring if I say the snow globe? Who *wouldn't* want a time-traveling snow globe? Have you noticed that so many time travel movies and shows go back to the same historical events? It seems that every time travel show explores the JFK assasination, for example. I think that's part of the reason that No Ordinary Thing stuck out to me so much—because it felt so unique.  I  love history, and I have an active imagination, so I love imagining where and when I would go if I could time travel. Just for fun, I keep a list of very specific times and places I would want to travel back in time to if I could, and what I would want to do. For example: I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I'd love to go back to the 1800s and see how densely covered in trees it was. I'd also want to see the tall ships coming into our local port, and I'd want to ride on a train! I live in an old Victorian farmhouse that was built in 1890—I'd love to see the land it sits on before it was built, and maybe befriend the people who built the house.
Author: G.Z. Schmidt Answers

1. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind NO ORDINARY THING?

No Ordinary Thing was inspired partly from Louis Sachar's book Holes, which I loved as a kid. I enjoy books with multiple viewpoints, mixed timelines, flashbacks, and other detailed things that you can only really capture in text, as opposed to other media like TV shows and movies. As a result, the book has two main characters, set 100 years apart, and you get to see how their stories unravel and intertwine together.

2. Do you have a favorite time travel book, movie, or show?

I'd say Umbrella Academy is my currently favorite time travel show. It's different from your standard time travel in the sense there are multiple parallel universes, and going back in time CAN change things, as opposed to the Grandfather Paradox. I think TV/film captures the essence of time travel particularly well, because you see visually all the little changes: fonts, hairstyles, dresses. 

3. If you could travel back in time, where and when would you go?

This is a hard question. Probably the 1920s and meet F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein in Paris, where I have them critique my latest manuscript. (Yes, just like Midnight in Paris!)

4. What has been your favorite part of the publication process so far?

My favorite is the cover reveal. Middle grade covers can be especially whimsical and detailed, and I love seeing the book come to life through the art.  

Thanks for all your advice G.Z. and Adria! You can find G.Z. at:

Author Website:
Buy Links for NO ORDINARY THING: AmazonIndieBoundBarnes & Noble

Giveaway Details

G.Z. has generously offered a hardback of No Ordinary Thing and Adra has offered a query critique for

a giveaway. 
To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by October 31st. 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 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. The book giveaway is U.S. only and the critique query is international.

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

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, October 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Melanie Castillo and a query critique giveaway

Monday, October 26th I have an interview with debut author Lily LaMotte and a giveaway of her MG graphic novel Measuring Up

Wednesday, November 3rd I have an interview with debut author Chole Gong and a giveaway of her YA fantasy These Violent Delights and my IWSG post

Monday, November 9th I have an interview with debut author Sheila Averbuch and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Friend Me

Tuesday, November 10th I'm participating in the Super Stocking Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Sherry Ellis Blog Tour and Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Adventure Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Join me today for author Sherry Ellis’ MC Book Tour for her latest release, BUBBA AND SQUIRT’S MAYAN ADVENTURE.

This is a delightful juvenile fiction story that readers of all ages will enjoy.

◊ Genre: Juvenile Fiction
◊ Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press (Sept. 7, 2020)
◊ Print & eBooks
◊ Paperback: 96 pages
◊ ISBN-10: 1939844703
◊ ISBN-13: 978-1939844705

An ancient Mayan civilization!     

That's what Bubba and Squirt find when they travel through the mysterious vortex for another wild adventure. There they meet archeologists who are unearthing priceless artifacts.

But someone is stealing them. And an encounter with the Tate Duende awakens magic within Bubba. Throw in the mysterious Alux and a new discovery and things get sticky.

Will Bubba and Squirt solve the mystery, or will they be stuck forever in the jungles of Belize?

Bubba and Squirt available at 

Meet the Author

Sherry Ellis is an award-winning author and professional musician who plays and teaches the violin, viola, and piano. 

When she is not writing or engaged in musical activities, she can be found doing household chores, hiking, or exploring the world. Ellis and her family live in Atlanta, Georgia.

For more information on Sherry and her writing, connect with her on: Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads * Blog * Website * Amazon Author Page

Interview With Sherry Ellis

I interviewed Sherry when the first book in this series, Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China, was released. You can learn more about her by reading that interview.

 Hi Sherry! Thanks so much for joining us.

 1. Where did you get the idea for Bubba and Squirt’s Mayan Adventure? 

In 1998, I visited the ruins of Altun Ha in Belize. When I was trying to figure out where Bubba and Squirt should go next, I thought Altun Ha would be perfect. Kids study Mayan culture in school, so this will tie in nicely and help them remember what they learn.

2. I know that this book is part of a series. How have you plotted out your stories as part of a series? 

This is a good question. Originally, I was being random about where Bubba and Squirt were going. It was open-ended. It could go on for fifty books, if I wanted it to—like the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborn.  But then after talking with the publisher, I decided to make it finite with a plot thread that goes through five books. Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China was a pilot book. Since kids seemed to like it, I wrote Bubba and Squirt’s Mayan Adventure. This too, can basically stand alone. But there are some elements in both books that point to what’s ahead. The next three that are planned have more elements of magic and make up a trilogy. I have written the first draft of the third book:  Bubba and Squirt’s City of Bones and have almost completed the first draft of the fourth:  Bubba and Squirt’s Shield of Athena. The last will be Bubba and Squirt’s Legend of the Lost Pearl. The plot is a little rough still. I have the general roadmap, but the details of how it will unfold are still a mystery.  This is unusual for me, since I am a big-time plotter. If I can get it all sorted out, then hopefully, the world will see these final three.     

3. This story is set in Belize and involves valuable artifacts. What research did you do and what resources were your favorites? 

The best kind of research involves going to the location and learning from the archeologists. That’s exactly what I did for this book. My trip to Belize was a SCUBA diving vacation, but I had the great opportunity to go inland to visit the ruins of Altun Ha which are an active archeological site. That’s when I first learned of the artifacts. Of course, I read many books to refresh my memory of what I’d seen. One book I found helpful is Ancient Mayan Civilization by Nancy Day.   

4. How are you planning to promote your book given COVID-19? What advice do you have for other authors whose books are being released during these trying times? 

Another good question! Most of what I’m doing is online. I have this blog tour and a blog hop. I’m also contacting libraries and schools to offer online Skype presentations. Several of my friends also have releases this year, so we’re thinking about doing a book signing at a park or having a Zoom interview where all of us meet and are available to answer questions from readers. If any writers out there who have releases this year want to set something up like this, let me know. You can contact me through my website at 

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Sherry!

Thank you for having me as a guest!


The author is sponsoring a tour-wide giveaway. She is giving away ten (10) autographed print copies of the book open to all. Be sure to enter below on the Rafflecopter widget. If the widget doesn’t appear, click HERE to enter the giveaway. The giveaway ends at midnight on Oct. 17th.

You can also follow Sherry’s tour for more information and chances to enter by visiting the following sites:

Monday, Sept. 14 - Write With Fey - Guest Post
Alex J. Cavanaugh - Guest Post

Tuesday, Sept. 15 - Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews - Interview
Wednesday, Sept. 16 - The Story of a Writer - Review
Thursday, Sept. 17 - Book Reviews by Pat Garcia - Review
Friday, Sept. 18 - Booked Solid with Virginia C - Feature
Rockin' Book Reviews - Review & Top Ten List

Monday, Sept. 21 - Just Jemi - Review & Interview
Anna del C. Dye Official Page - Excerpt
Tuesday, Sept. 22 - Baroness' Book Trove - Review

Saturday, Sept. 26 - Storeybook Reviews - Excerpt
Monday, Sept. 28 - Elizabeth Spann Craig's Blog - Guest Post
Joylene Nowell Butler - Excerpt
Journaling Woman - Feature
Wednesday, Sept. 30 - Nesie's Place - Excerpt

Friday, Oct. 2 - Thoughts in Progress - Review
Monday, Oct. 5 - The Sexy Nerd "Revue" - Excerpt
Wednesday, Oct. 7 - Willow Writes and Reads - Review
Friday, Oct. 9 - Celticlady's Reviews - Excerpt
Monday, Oct. 12 - Literary Rambles - Interview
Wednesday, Oct. 14 - Writer's Gambit - Feature & Top 10 List

Thanks for stopping by today. Do you enjoy all different types of genres and age-related stories?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, October 19th I have a guest post by debut author G.Z. Schmidt and her agent Adria Goetz and
a query critique giveaway by Adria and a giveaway of No Ordinary Thing by Adria

Wednesday, October 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Melanie Castillo and a query critique giveaway

Monday, October 26th I have an interview with debut author Lily LaMotte and a giveaway of her MG graphic novel Measuring Up

Wednesday, November 3rd I have an interview with debut author Chole Gong and a giveaway of her YA fantasy These Violent Delights and my IWSG post

Monday, November 9th I have an interview with debut author Sheila Averbuch and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Friend Me

Tuesday, November 10th I'm participating in the Super Stocking Giveaway Hop 

Hope to see you on Monday!

Author Interview: Jennifer Nielsen and The Captive Kingdom Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m beyond excited to have Jennifer Nielsen here to share about her new MG fantasy The Captive Kingdom, the fourth book in her The Ascendance series, which released yesterday. I already bought it and am dying to read it. Jennifer is one of my favorite authors, and I fell in love with this series when I read The False Prince when it released in 2012. You can read my interview with Jennifer in 2012 here

If you stopped by last month on IWSG post, I picked Jennifer as the person I'd most like to have as my writing mentor. So it makes it even more special that she's on the blog today.

One silver lining of the pandemic is that I have more time to read so I read Jennifer’s whole The Traitor’s Game series. It is an amazing YA fantasy series. It was one of the best, satisfying series I’ve ever read except for The Ascendance series. 

And here's another silver lining. Last Thursday night, Jennifer had a virtual book release party. I went, and it was so much fun!


Before I get to Jennifer’s interview, I have my IWSG Post.
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 awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!

Optional QuestionWhen you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

I'm honestly not sure if I see myself as a working writing or hobbyist. I struggle with that all the time. I admire self-published writers but don't want to do all the work of publishing a book on my own.

I have mixed feelings about trying to get published traditionally. I've already worked 50 years, and I'm not sure I want another career or to be that busy anymore. And it can be a real up and down experience even if you get a book deal that you don't have much control over. I've already gone through hard times that I had no control over since my husband died.

So, I'm just taking it day-by-day for now and working on writing consistently and faster. I'm writing more days of the week for an hour or so after I finish my job but am not beating myself if I want to go sit and read a good book or take a walk instead.  I'll make decisions on whether I try to get published after I have finished manuscript to try to query.

What about you? Where do you see yourself as a writer?

Interview With Jennifer Nielsen

Here’s a description of The Captive Kingdom from Goodreads:

Jennifer A. Nielsen returns to the world of The False Prince in this fourth book of the Ascendance


In a peaceful Carthya, Jaron leads as the Ascendant King with Imogen beside him -- but the peace he fought so long for is not destined to last.

On a routine sea voyage, Jaron's ship is brutally attacked, and he is taken hostage. The mysterious captors and their leader, Jane Strick, accuse Jaron of unthinkable acts. They are also in possession of some shocking items -- including the crown and sword that belonged to Jaron's older brother, Darius. The items unearth a past Jaron thought he had put behind him.

Though it seems impossible, Jaron must consider: Could Darius be alive? And what does Strick want from Jaron? Against his will, Jaron will be pulled back into a fight for the throne -- and a battle to save his kingdom.

Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. For those who don’t know you, share a bit about how you became a writer and your road to publication.

The short version is that it took me four manuscripts to get my million words of garbage under my belt,
and along the way, I gathered a thick pile of rejection letters. Every one of them was hard, but I clung to the belief that eventually, I would write the manuscript that was my ticket in. Finally – on my birthday – I received one rejection letter that felt more personal than any of the others. It felt like the last straw for me. So I went inside, ate a bucket of ice cream in hopes that it would somehow make things better…which it didn’t. Then I sat down and decided that for me, there would only be one of two possible directions I would go from that point. 

The first was to decide if I had a future as an author. I had to consider the possibility that I really didn’t have talent, and never would break in. If that was my decision, I needed to quit.

It turns out that I am not a person who does quitting well, so my only other option was to succeed. To do that, I had to figure out what I’d been doing wrong. So I threw out everything I thought I knew about writing, then looked at what others were doing who were getting those publication contracts.

Once I felt ready, I wrote a new manuscript as a test. This would either be my last attempt, or my first yes. As it turns out, this was the manuscript that got me my agent and my first publishing manuscript.

I am proof that anyone can start from knowing nothing about writing and, if they are willing to keep working at the craft, they can find success too.

2. Thanks for sharing your struggles road to being an author. Yu give the rest of us a lot of hope. You published the third book in this series, The Shadow Throne, in 2014. What made you decide to return to tell another story in this series and why did you wait until now to write it? (And thank you so much for writing it! A lot of your fans on Goodreads are excited too.)

I’ve long said that Sage – the main character of this series – lives in my imagination. He was there constantly through the writing of the trilogy, but by the end, enough had happened that it felt like he was ready for a long rest.

The fan letters kept coming, which I always appreciated, and every so often when a fan would ask me to continue Sage’s story, I’d check in with him and the quick answer was, “No, I’m good. Leave me alone.”

Then one day I received a letter asking for details on what the reader thought was a key missing scene of the third book – a gap of missing time. I checked in with Sage and for the first time in years he was interested in the details too. Turns out he had become bored. I asked if he wanted to get into some trouble again. He said, “Definitely,” and I began to write.

3. We all owe a debt to that fan. Did you have a hard time getting back into this world and Sage’s voice? How did you keep track of the details about your characters and world so that you could step back into this world?

I was actually surprised at how easy it was to return to this world. I’ve kept a series spreadsheet since the beginning so that helped me with some key details, but the characters and places in this book feel so real to me that writing simply felt like recalling a memory from my past.

4. That sounds like a great way to keep track of all the details. What was something that surprised you when you wrote The Captive Kingdom?

There were certainly problem areas and plenty of work for my fabulous editor to do, but I think I saw in this book some evidences that I had grown as a writer. I am still looking for ways I can improve – and I am far from who I’d like to be as a writer – but it was a wonderful thing to be able to make some comparisons and see growth.

5. You're such an amazing writer. I'd love to be at your stage of development. You’ve written four MG and YA fantasy series. How do you plot them out and what advice do you have for writers who are writing book one in a fantasy series?

Once I have the general idea, I jump ahead to whatever I foresee as the big twist or reveal, and I make

myself come up with five possibilities. This is important because if I only go with the first thing I think of, then it’s likely the first thing my reader thinks of, so it’s boring and predictable. But five possibilities forces me to be more creative.

When I find the one that resonates most with me, I usually plot the key moments backward, creating an effect-and-cause outline. From there I begin to fill in details, although the details frequently change as I write. However, the key moments rarely do.

For writers who are on the first book of their series, it is essential to spend significant time on world building, and as part of that, to define some details that make this world feel both unique and real. In my opinion, the most important part of the world building is the map – because you will be locked into that map for every subsequent book so you need to think ahead for distances, locations of settlements and cities, available resources, natural obstacles, and surrounding countries. For example, if you know a war will eventually come to the land, you must consider whether it is fought in a swamp, in mountains, or in a fantasy city. The geography of the area will have a significant impact on how the story unfolds.

6. That's such great advice on the plot twist and creating a map. I hadn't thought of making one. Since 2010, you’ve had 20+ books published in the MG fantasy, YA fantasy, and MG historical genres. How have you been able to complete so many published books in this time period and write in so many different genres? About how many books are you able to write in a year?

Honestly, I think it’s two-fold. First is that I am surrounded by so many story ideas, the thought of not being able to write them all is a frustration that compels me to write faster. Second is that when it comes to writing, I’m a highly focused person, so when I start a project, I just keep going until it’s finished. That allows me to be very efficient with my writing time.

7. What are the main ways that you promote your books leading up to and when your book releases? What advice do you have for debut authors, especially during these challenging times?

The best piece of advice I ever got as a debut author was from Erin Murphy, the president of my literary agency. She said, “The best thing you can do for your career is to write the next book.” I didn’t fully understand then how key it was, but I do now. Here’s why: If you sell a book today, it will likely come out in 2022. Much of the first year after the sale is fairly quiet from your editor, who has other projects ahead of yours. This is the time to write the next book and hope to sell it in 2021. You want to do this so that you have a book set to release the year after your debut.

Because when your debut book comes out, you will begin building a fan base and their first question will be, “When is your next book?” Being able to answer that question is key to growing your career.

In terms of marketing, the strongest tool I’ve ever discovered is word of mouth – one reader recommends the book to another. Since we cannot control that after a book is released, we must have that in mind as we write: the question of why readers will insist to their friends that, “You must read this book!” Why will a bookseller pull your book off the shelf and tell the buyer that this is the right book for them?

You need a specific answer to that question. Sometimes it’s because of shock value (HUNGER GAMES). Sometimes it’s because of the powerful message (WONDER), or curiosity about the premise (THE MAZE RUNNER). I’m convinced that the reason THE FALSE PRINCE did so well is because of a few surprises in the book, and that the success of A NIGHT DIVIDED was because it was so unique. At the time, there were no other middle grade Berlin Wall escape stories.

So figure out the reason why readers will recommend your book, and then use that to market it.

8. What are you working on now? Do you plan to write more books in this series?

There is a book five of the Ascendance series – I’m actually in copyedits for it now and it might be my favorite of all the books. This spring I will release RESCUE, a World War 2 historical dealing with the spies and secret codes of the war, and the key question of “Were there good Germans?” And beyond that…oh goodness.

My other active projects right now include a World War One historical, a conspiracy thriller, a comedy screenplay, a contemporary feel-good novel, and then a few days ago, I discovered an absolutely amazing true World War 2 story. It will need a ton of research, but it’s so compelling, I’ve got to find time for it. But first…I’m going to find some chocolate.

I'm so excited about book 5. Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jennifer. You can find Jennifer at, on Twitter and Instagram as @Nielsenwriter, or on Facebook as Jennifer A. Nielsen, Author.

Giveaway Details

Jennifer has generously offered a hardback of The Captive Kingdom for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by October 17th. 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. only.

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

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, October 12th I have an interview with Sherry Ellis as part of her MG adventure Squirt's Mayan Adventure blog tour

Monday, October 19th I have a guest post by debut author G.Z. Schmidt and her agent Adria Goetz and a query critique giveaway by Adria and a giveaway of No Ordinary Thing by Adria

Wednesday, October 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Melanie Castillo and a query critique giveaway

Monday, October 26th I have an interview with debut author Lily LaMotte and a giveaway of her MG graphic novel Measuring Up

Wednesday, November 3rd I have an interview with debut author Chole Gong and a giveaway of her YA fantasy These Violent Delights and my IWSG post

Monday, November 9th I have an interview with debut author Sheila Averbuch and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Friend Me

Tuesday, November 10th I'm participating in the Super Stocking Giveaway Hop 

Hope to see you on Monday!