CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

WOVEN IN MIDNIGHT through January 25th

FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON through January 25th

Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop through January 31st

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

Katelyn Detweiler Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 1/20/2020

Hilary Jacobson Query Critique & ALL THE STARS AND TEETH Giveaway on 2/5/2020

Megan Manzano Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 2/24/2020

BEST OF 2019 GIVEAWAY HOP


Happy New Year Everyone! I hope you're excited for the new year. I am looking forward to some good changes this year that will give me more time to write, read, and work on this blog. I'm really excited for all the MG and YA debut authors I'm featuring with book giveaways in 2020. I hope you'll enter contests for books that interest you.

Today I'm excited to participate in the Best of 20119 Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds. I've got a combination of MG and YA books that I hope you're looking forward to reading. Some are from 2019 and others are current releases.

Remember, 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.



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 January 31st. 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. 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.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut author Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood

Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post

Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Monday!

Here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop








JANAE MARKS INTERVIEW AND FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Janae Marks here to share about her MG contemporary FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON. It sounds like a fantastic mystery, and I’m anxious to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

From debut author Janae Marks comes a captivating mystery full of heart, as one courageous girl questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right—even in the face of great opposition. A perfect book for fans of Front Desk and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook!

Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.
 

Hi Janae! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi Natalie! Thanks so much for having me on Literary Rambles.

I’m an author, wife and mom living in Connecticut. Growing up, I was always interested in writing. As a kid, I loved writing and illustrating my own stories. I still have the books I made in the second grade – one of them featured a hamster with magical powers! I was also into journaling and letter writing. (My summer camp friends and counselors were my pen pals!) I didn’t think about writing seriously until I got to college, where I took some creative writing classes. Then I decided to get an MFA in creative writing from The New School in NYC. By then, I’d figured out that I enjoyed writing for kids, so I chose to enter the Writing for Children program. I graduated with my MFA in 2010, so it still took many more years for me to get an agent and book deal, but I learned so much about writing and publishing in that program, and had a wonderful time.

2. Where did you get the idea for FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON?

I was inspired by true stories! In 2014, I was obsessed with the first season of the podcast Serial, which tells the story of a man serving a prison sentence for murder, who may actually be innocent of the crime. I also watched the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, which tells a similar story. I started thinking about wrongful convictions, and did some research. I read about The Innocence Project, an organization that helps overturn wrongful convictions. Then I started to wonder what it would be like for the child of one of those inmates. Zoe Washington was born from there.

3. That's awesome that you got your idea from true stories. And there are sadly innocent people who are convicted of murder and other crimes. Your story is a mystery and contemporary. What was your plotting process like? What tips do you have for other writers writing MG who want to write a mystery?

With my previous manuscripts (all contemporaries), I struggled a bit with developing a high-concept plot. Those stories were more character-driven. But with ZOE, the mystery helped a lot with plotting, because I knew there were certain plot points I’d need to hit. Zoe would need to uncover the mystery, start her investigation, try and fail a few times, and so on. The “try/fail” cycles helped me keep readers in suspense. I came up with different plans that Zoe could try to implement in order to uncover the truth. With each one, she’d get a tiny bit closer to her goal, but she’d also experience some sort of setback or new challenge to solve.

For other MG writers who want to write a mystery, I recommend plotting out at least the main story points. I like starting with Dan Wells’ Seven Point Plot system. There are a series of YouTube videos where he walks through the process. I usually start with a short plot using his method, and flesh out my outline from there.

4. I've heard a lot about Dan Wells' system. I am going to check our his YouTube videos. Zoe has been described in reviews as a memorable character who is determined and full of heart. What was her character development like?

Zoe turns twelve-years-old at the beginning of the book, and makes it clear that she doesn’t want to

be treated like a little kid anymore. She wants more agency and, when she receives the letter from Marcus, she wants to be able to decide for herself whether or not she has a relationship with him. Up until this point her mom has decided this for her. A lot of Zoe’s determination comes from wanting to do things for herself. This also plays out in her baking internship. She’s determined to prove that she is good enough to audition for a kid baking competition show. What Zoe has to learn, however, is that there’s nothing wrong with accepting help from the adults in her life. She can’t do it all alone.

As for her heart, you see that through the relationship she develops with Marcus through their letters. She also shows a lot of passion when she’s baking.

5. You worked for a Big 5 publisher at one time. Did you learn things from working there that’s affected your writing? What?

Working in publishing didn’t affect my writing per se, but it was super helpful to have that insider
knowledge of how publishing works. It was also really motivating to work with books every day. I kept writing, even in the face of rejection, because I really wanted to be traditionally published like the books on the shelves at my job. And once I got my book deal, I felt more prepared for what was to come while working with HarperCollins.

6. Your agent is Alex Slater. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON is the fourth book I wrote and the second book I queried. Back in 2013, I queried my first book—a young adult manuscript—and while I got a bunch of requests, I didn’t end up with an offer.

While writing ZOE, I learned about Alex through one of his clients, a friend of mine. She told him about me and my book, so I got on his radar and he followed me on Twitter. I also grabbed his attention when my manuscript won the 2017 Tassy Walden New Voices in Children’s Literature award—a CT writing award for unpublished authors. By the time I queried him, Alex replied right away and requested the full. Then he read my book quickly, and offered representation! I was lucky enough to get four more offers of rep, but I decided to go with Alex, and I’m so happy to be working with him.

As for selling ZOE, Alex sent it to editors at the beginning of 2018, and it quickly went to auction! After speaking to a few of the editors who offered, I decided to go with Katherine Tegen Books. While this part of my journey was fast, it took a lot of years of writing, querying, and picking myself up after rejection to get there.  

7. Thanks for reminding of us of how long the journey can take.  I saw on your website that your book will be sold in the United Kingdom too with a different cover and title—THE FARAWAY TRUTH. How did your sale and cover and title change happen?

I have the amazing foreign rights team at Trident Media Group to thank for this! They were able to sell my book to Chicken House Books in the UK not long after the book sold in the US. The team at Chicken House Books decided to change the title since the phrase “From the desk of…” isn’t commonly used in the UK. THE FARAWAY TRUTH ties in well with the story, so I’m happy with the change. As for the cover, they decided to give it their own spin, and I love how it came out! I’m thrilled with both of my covers.  

8. Your book launch party is at Book of Wonder in New York City. Wow! What else are you doing to promote your book? What advice do you have to other debut authors from your years working in publishing and your own experience?

I’m super excited to have my launch at Books of Wonder! My publisher has been amazing with promoting my book in a lot of ways, so I haven’t had to do as much on my own. They’ve helped get my ARCs into the hands of a lot of educators, booksellers and librarians, and have done some online promotions like giveaways and ads. The two main ways I’ve promoted my book are through social media (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) and through my newsletter.

I also tried something fun to promote ZOE. Since Zoe is an aspiring pastry chef, and I don’t usually bake much myself, I decided to do a baking challenge. Leading up to ZOE’s release, I baked one cupcake recipe a month. There were four different cupcake recipes, and I shared photos on Instagram under #ZoeWashingtonCupcakes. I also shared the recipes in my newsletter for my subscribers. It was a lot of fun, and those posts on Instagram got a lot of engagement.

One piece of advice I have for debut authors is to learn how to create pretty graphics for your social media pages and website. Canva is a free tool with a ton of templates. It’s pretty simple to use, and putting together graphics with teasers, blurbs, reviews, etc. will make your book stand out on social media. I also recommend creating a newsletter and building a mailing list. With all the algorithms on social media, it’s easy for content to get lost, so a newsletter is a great way to connect with your readers directly.

9.  That's great advice.What’s your favorite social media site? Why?

I love Instagram! I enjoy taking photos and find the platform less overwhelming than Twitter. I also love getting to know other authors through their photos and Instagram stories.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m currently revising my second middle grade book with Katherine Tegen Books, which will be out in 2021! I can’t wait to share more about it soon, but I think fans of Zoe will love my new heroine.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Janae. You can find Janae at janaemarks.com, and on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook under @janaemarksbooks.

Janae has generously offered a hardback of FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON 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 January 258th. 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 or follow me on Twitter, 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 is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Tomorrow I'm participating in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop. I'll have some great 2019 and January 2020 new release MG and YA choices

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut author Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood

Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post

Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you tomorrow!

ISABEL IBAÑEZ INTERVIEW AND WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT GIVEAWAY AND IWSG POST

Happy Wednesday Everyone! I hope you had a happy holiday season and are looking forward to a great year. I am! Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Isabel Ibañez here to share about her YA fantasy WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT. It draws on Bolivia’s history and politics and sounds like it has strong characters and great world building. I can’t wait to read it. 

WriteOnCon Is Back in February

First, I want to let you know about WriteOnCon, a wonderful online conference for writers of picture books through YA, that will be happening Friday, February 21 through Sunday, February 23. There are 122 events and 41 of them are live. Registration costs $10-$25 depending on the level of admission you want. Even if you write for adults, I recommend checking out the schedule because there may be something there for you too. I've been going since it started up again and found many helpful presentations by authors, editors, and agents.


Before I get to my interview, I have my IWSG post. 

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 is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are T. Powell Coltrin, Victoria Marie Lees, Stephen Tremp, Renee Scattergood, and J.H. Moncrieff! First, here is some awesome IWSG news:



The next #IWSGPit  will be in January 15, 2020
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On January 15, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.


Optional Question: What started you on your writing journey?

I started writing two easy readers when my daughter was three years old with her as the star so I could use pictures to illustrate them. That was about 20 years ago. But then I put it all aside and didn't really consider writing until I read the first Harry Potter book about four years later. I had an idea for a middle grade fantasy and just decided to start it. 

Back then, I was really inspired and wrote my first draft quickly. I probably made every mistake there was. I have been writing since on and off. My day job as an attorney, care giving for my late husband, and being a mom made it hard to write. Then this blog took a lot of my writing time. I stopped writing for about five years after my husband died and had no interest in. I'm just starting to get back into it again.

What about you? What started you on your journey?

Now, here's my interview with Isabel. Here’s a blurb about WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT from Goodreads


A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.


Hi Isabel! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve always loved writing and when I went to college, I majored in Creative Writing! I took a detour in graphic design and illustration, but found my way back when a Latina pirate story wouldn’t leave my mind! I participated in Pitch Wars and my mentor helped sharpen my writing skills. Afterward, I landed an agent through #DVPIT (on Twitter) and then sat down to write my next book: Woven in Moonlight.

2. That's great you majored in creative writing. I wish I had taken some courses in this in college. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I had the idea to write a revolution story because of what was going on in the political stage in Bolivia. The present government was causing a lot of fear for my family there (my brother and I were the only ones born in the USA, everyone else is in Bolivia) and so the story began with wanting to write an alternative story involving Bolivian politics.

3. It sounds like you have great world building and food in your story. Yum! What was your world building process like? How did you balance creating a new world with the Bolivian influences you used?

Great question! Writing a Bolivian fantasy actually took very little research—because I know the country, it’s culture and traditions, the food and atmosphere. We have a house there and growing up, I spent three months out of the year living there during the summer, up until I was 18. So writing about Bolivia felt like I was writing about home, a place as familiar to me as my own face. When building a world, my general rule is to always be specific. Don’t say pepper when I can say locoto (a kind of pepper in Bolivia). As much as possible, I included the dishes I grew up eating, described the clothing used by Bolivians around Cochabamba.

4. That's a great tip to be as specific as you can in your world building. Xiemena and your other female characters have been described as strong characters. Xiemena starts out having the motive of revenge, which could make her unsympathetic but didn’t here. What was your character-building process like and how did you balance Xiemena’s motives with making her sympathetic?

More than anything, Ximena is driven by the keen sense of loss. She’s lost her family, her home, and
her identity. In her inner core, I believe she yearns to experience emotions and experiences that aren’t ruled by the scorching anger she feels. I worked hard for the real Ximena to shine through—her artistic ambition, her love of food, her desire to be outdoors. Ximena is more than her desire for revenge—even though it’s taken up more space in her life than anything else. For the first time in years, she leaves the Illustrian keep and gets to spend time with herself in a way that she never did before. It’s hard to learn who you are when you’re constantly being told what you believe, what you’re fighting for, and who you are. When Ximena is in the Castillo, I really was able to slowly peel back her layers to show her sympathy and compassion, and the ability to think for herself without hearing another loud voice telling her what to do.

5. What was a challenge you had in writing WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT? How did you overcome it?

By far the biggest challenge I faced while writing WIM was the beginning. It nearly did me in. For the life of me, I could not figure out the best way into the story. I wrote several false starts, and none of them rang true. There’s so much pressure with getting the beginning of a story exactly right. The early chapters have to pull so much weight: introduce the characters, explain the world without info-dumping, establish the status quo, etc. There’s so much you have to do exactly right, and that pressure really got to me. I finally had amazing feedback and that outside perspective worked wonders. I was able to edit the beginning and it read one hundred times stronger.

6. Beginnings are hard. I always work on them more too. Your agent is Sarah Landis. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Sarah Landis is my current agent, but it was actually my previous agent who sold WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT. She submitted the manuscript in waves and while we had some initial interest and an R+R, it didn’t sell. Months later, we got one more R+R—from Page Street—and they offered publication afterward!

7. What have you been doing to build your social media presence and contacts since you signed your publishing contract? What advice do you have for debut authors on doing this?

Pick one platform and stick with it. You don’t have to do all the things, but you might consider doing one medium consistently. Initially, I spent a lot of time on Twitter but I am SUPER visual and so I transferred my energy and time to Instagram. This is a much better fit for me. I have certain rules that I follow and it seems to be working, but I’m no means an expert.

Rule One: Post one photo a day.
Rule Two: Keep in brand (color scheme, topics, composition and content)
Rule Three: As much as possible, be responsive. This isn’t always possible but at minimum I will try to like every comment I get.
Rule Four: Support others.

8. Great advice to pick one social media platform you like. How are you planning to promote your book when it releases? How did you celebrate your cover release?

I’ve been on Instagram mostly! This is a great platform to share news and updates, all things WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT, and to talk about the preorder campaign. All my celebrations involve the dinner table. ;)

9. What are you working on now?

I’m hard at work revising WRITTEN IN STARLIGHT, the companion to WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT with my editor! I can’t wait for everyone to read this story. It takes place a week after the events of WIM.

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




Isabel has generously offered a hardback of WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT 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 January 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 or follow me on Twitter, 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.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, January 13th I have an interview with debut author Janae Marks and a giveaway of her MG contemporary FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON

Tuesday, January 14th I'm participating in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop. I'll have some great 2019 and January 2020 new release MG and YA choices

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut author Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood


Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post


Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis


Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 


Hope to see you on Monday!