CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

These Feathered Flames through April 24th




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

Agent Peter Knapp and Author Daniel Aleman Guest Post and Query Critique and Indivisible Giveaway on 5/5/2021

Tina Dubois Query Critique and How to Save a Queendom Giveaway on 5/10/2021

Joyce Sweeney Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/14/2021

Michelle Hauck Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/19/2021

Agent Maura Kye-Cassella and Author Sam Subity Guest Post and Query Critique and The Last Shadow Warrior Giveaway on 5/24/2021

Agent Janna Bonisowksi and Author Casie Bazey Guest Post and Query Critique and Not Our Summer Giveaway on 6/2/2021

Katherine Wessbecher Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/7/2021

Allison Hellegers Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/26/2021

Agent Chloe Seager and Author Brianna Bourne Guest Post with query critique and You and Me at the End of the World Giveaway on 9/20/21

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.

Author Interview and Blog Tour Giveaway: Author Gita Trelease and Everything That Burns Giveaway

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to be part of Gita Trelease’s blog tour for Everything That Burns, the second book in her Enchantee series. This is a YA fantasy set in the French revolution. I interviewed Gita when she debuted as an author in January 2021. You can read that interview here.

Here’s a blurb of Everything That Burns from Goodreads:


Camille Durbonne gambled everything she had to keep her and her sister safe, and now the Vicomtesse de Seguin seeks a new life in Paris. But revolution roils the bloody streets and “aristocrat” is a dangerous word. Safety may no longer be possible.

Following in her father’s footsteps, Camille prints revolutionary pamphlets, sharing the stories of girls.

A Conversation with Gita Trelease

 

Author of Everything That Burns


Q: Everything That Burns continues a transporting story of forbidden magic and the French Revolution that began in All That Glitters (previously published as Enchantée). Where did the idea for this duology come from?

 

A: Books come to me over a long period of time, with lots of pieces held in suspension until there’s finally a click that makes all the rest come together. For a year I’d been playing with the idea of a dark fantasy set at Versailles that revolved around gambling and social inequality, but it was a book I read about 18th-century science—its chapter on 1780s balloon mania included a real-life account of an aeronaut rescued by a milkmaid—that gave me the idea to add hot-air balloons to the story. Risk and gambling and magic felt suddenly more complex and compelling. And that girl haunted me. No one had ever interviewed her to ask: Why did you risk your life when others ran away? Around that question, I created the character of Camille.

 

Q: What was the biggest difference between writing the first book and the sequel?

 

A: The biggest difference between writing the first book and the second was the pressure! Not just the time constraints of being on deadline, but also wanting to create a book that did justice to the first one and, to the best of my ability, met expectations for the readers who loved All That Glitters. And as a writer, I always want to grow in my craft, so that inner pressure was there, too.

Q: The Parisian setting and backdrop of the turbulent French Revolution is as dazzling in Everything That Burns as it was in All That Glitters. Why did you want to center this story in the midst of the French Revolution, and did you have to do any research to evoke the feeling of the city at that moment in history?

A: For me, the French Revolution—with its turbulent events, vivid real-life characters, glamorous and gritty locales, and morally complex issues—is the perfect setting for a coming-of-age story. The questions Camille wrestles with—Who am I? Who do I want to be? What should I do with my life?—are also the questions that fuel the revolution.

 

Writing historical fiction, I do want to get the facts straight, but it’s just as important to me to create an immersive experience for my readers, and for that I depend on research. For this book, I read letters and journals written by people who survived the revolution, as well as historians’ second-hand accounts. I studied 1789 Paris fashion and the city’s sewers; I studied the history of the Seine, Parisian theaters, and public executions. I was lucky enough to have lived, a long time ago, in one of the oldest parts of Paris, where many of the atmospheric parks and buildings I write about still exist. On a more recent visit, I explored the elegant mansions of the Marais, including the Hôtel Carnavalet. The mansion is now a museum dedicated to the history of Paris and houses a fascinating collection of artifacts from the French Revolution. For me, though, the research is like the framing of a building—it’s scaffolding to hold up my imagination and my own experience. That’s what makes the story feel immersive and real.

Q: Who was your favorite character to write this time around? Was it the same as your favorite character from All That Glitters?

 A: My favorite characters to write in All That Glitters were the Marquis de Chandon, because he’s magic


—a witty and charming mentor for Camille at the court of Versailles. The villain in that book, the Vicomte de Séguin, was also deliciously fun to write. But in Everything That Burns, it was Camille who was my favorite: she undergoes such an enormous change, both inwardly and outwardly, from the beginning of the novel to the end, and it was satisfying to create terrible obstacles for her to overcome. On a more personal level, my own mother died when I was about Camille’s age, and writing the scenes in which she wrestles with her memories of Maman comforted me in ways I could never have expected.

 

Q: Can you tell us a little about your writing routine? Where and when do you most like to write? Has the ongoing pandemic changed that at all?

 

A: I love to get up in the morning, make some coffee, and go out to my writing house—preferably without talking to anyone in my family! That dreamy, early-morning state of mind is precious to me. I’ll work for a few hours, take a break to eat, and work a few more hours. This year I stopped using word or page counts as motivation; I realized that for me, they’re counterproductive. I discovered that daydreaming, brainstorming, and research are such a huge part of my process and there’s no way to quantify that. I end the day by writing a note to myself about what I plan to work on for tomorrow, or pose myself a question I need answered. Then I’ll let my subconscious work while I go for a walk in the woods. Because of the way I’m wired, I can’t help but think a lot about anything that comes into my brain, so I try to be intentional about what I let in. That’s been much harder during the pandemic.

 

Q: What books are currently on your nightstand?


A: Peacock and Vine by AS Byatt; All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders; Weather by Jenny Offill; The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett; a book of Russian fairy tales; and a couple of cookbooks: In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison and Simple Cake by Odette Williams. I find cookbooks the most relaxing to read before bed!

 

Q: We have to ask—what are you working on at the moment? Anything you can tease for readers who can’t wait to read whatever you write next?


A: Right now I’m working on a new YA fantasy. The mood is gilded autumn in New England, deep shadows at its edges. It’s personal, as I’ve lived in New England much of my life, and though it takes place in a version of the present, fans of the Enchantée series will find that some of my obsessions remain: people who move between worlds; darkly compelling magic; a mysterious, gothic setting; a romance that is both delicious and dangerous; and plenty of yearning for the things you’re supposed to want—as well as those that are forbidden.

  

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

 

Purchase link: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250295552

Website: https://www.gitatrelease.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gitatrelease

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17337861.Gita_Trelease

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gitatrelease/

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Gita-Trelease/e/B07L1CQXH9/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

 

Giveaway Details

Gita’s publisher has generously offered a hardback of Everything That Burns 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 February 13th. 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. 

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, February 1st I’m participating in the February of 2021 Book Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, February 3rd I have an interview with debut author Jennifer Gruenke and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Of Silver and Shadow and my IWSG post

Monday, February 8th I have an interview with debut author Kristy Boyce and a giveaway of her YA contemporary Hot British Boyfriend

Wednesday, February 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Abigail Frank and a query critique giveaway

Monday, February 15th I have an interview with debut author Emily Victoria and a giveaway of her YA fantasy This Golden Flame

Tuesday, February 16th I’m participating in the Wish Big Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, February 17th I have an agent spotlight interview with Pam Gruber and a query critique giveaway

Monday, February 22th I have a guest post by debut author Sam Taylor and her agent Allison Hellegers and a giveaway of Sam’s YA fantasy We Are the Fire and a query critique giveaway by Allison

Hope to see you on Monday!

 

 

 

Debut Author Interview: Chrystal D. Giles and Take Back the Block Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Chrystal D. Giles here to share about her MG contemporary Take Back the Block. Wes, the main character, sounds like someone I want to know, and I love what he’s trying to do. 

 Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

 


Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That--and hanging out with his crew (his best friends since little-kid days) and playing video games--is what he wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to.

But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood Wes has lived his whole life, everything changes. The grownups are suppposed to have all the answers, but all they're doing is arguing. Even Wes's best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn't about to give up the only home he's ever known. Wes has always been good at puzzles, and he knows there has to be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it . . . before it's too late?

Exploring community, gentrification, justice, and friendship, Take Back the Block introduces an irresistible 6th grader and asks what it means to belong--to a place and a movement--and to fight for what you believe in.

 Hi Chrystal! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

 Hi, and thanks for having me! I’m an author of books for young people. I was born, raised, and reside in Charlotte, NC. My journey to being a writer is a little unconventional. My formal education is in accounting and I’ve worked in various areas of finance throughout my adult life. 

 I did have a deep love of books as a young child that I got to revisit when I was preparing for the birth of my son in 2015. Soon after my son was born, I became very passionate about finding books that represented him and Black families like ours. I was sad to realize that there just weren’t very many books that reflected us, so I (very naively and ambitiously) set out to write stories with Black children at the center.

 2. That’s great you did. I’m an adoptive mom of a daughter who is Chinese. There weren’t enough books for her as a child either. Where did you get the idea for Take Back the Block?

 This story was directly inspired by my hometown. My city, like many cities across the nation, is experiencing gentrification and the displacement of marginalized people. Years ago, I started to notice whole communities being wiped away, I really became troubled by the thought of what happens to the children and families when these neighborhoods are transformed.

I couldn’t get that worry out of my mind so I decided to write a story that centered on the up-close view of a community fighting to remain whole.

3. What was your writing process like for this book? How long did it take to complete it?

I pantsed my way through the first draft in about five weeks. It was a pitiful, skeleton draft but the plot and characters were there and I had a really good feeling about it.

 4. I’m so jealous that you could write a first draft in five weeks. I am SO much slower. Wes sounds like someone I’d really like. Share how you developed him as a character and something that you especially like about him.

 I have a feeling you’ll love him!

I knew right away I needed a light-hearted character for a story that focused on such a serious topic. Wes’s personality came to me in small bits. I knew I wanted him to be a reluctant activist, a little funny, but mostly just a regular kid with regular kids concerns.

 What I love most about Wes is, how cool he is. He’s stylish, approachable, flawed, and honestly the perfect vehicle to introduce this story to the world.

5. I can’t wait to meet him. I just reserved your book at the library. Your book is about 240 pages long and has short chapters, which makes it appealing to kids who don’t want to read longer books. What made you decide to make your story shorter than some middle grade books? What are your tips for achieving this?

 I'd love to say I had a master plan, but I didn't. I like to read shorter middle-grade novels so I naturally


wrote a shorter novel. My earlier drafts were even shorter than the version that will be published; it was beefed up a bit during each edit.

 My first piece of advice would be to read shorter middle-grade books. Utilize those mentor texts! Some of my favorites are by Jason Reynolds and Torrey Maldonado. After reading, make note of what’s on the page and what’s not on the page. Then look at your own work. Can you make your descriptions tighter? Are you over-explaining? Is that scene pushing the story forward?

 6. You are both a We Need Diverse Books and Pitch Wars Mentee. How did these experiences help you strengthen your story and move forward on your path to publication? What advice do you have for other writers thinking of trying to become a mentee with one of these groups?

 These are both powerful forces I am fortunate to be affiliated with!

 My mentorship with WNDB was a huge confidence booster. Before I applied for the mentorship, I was randomly querying agents and racking up a long list of rejections—which was starting to impact my confidence. Getting accepted into the program gave me the reassurance that my stories really did matter.

 PitchWars was a complete game-changer for how I approach revision. During PW, mentees are on a fast-paced revision schedule that lasts for about three months. I changed Take Back the Block from third-person to first-person during that time plus lots of character development.

 My advice for those applying for mentorships: 1. Do it! You can’t win a race that you never enter. 2. Take it seriously and submit your absolute best work. 3. Go all in. Don’t be afraid of hard work—it’ll pay off!

 7. That’s great advice on PitchWars. Your agent is Elizabeth Bewley. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

 Elizabeth and I were introduced during the agent showcase round of PitchWars. After the showcase was over, I had two offers of representation and I chose Elizabeth because of her enthusiasm, vision, and professionalism. 

 I was on submission a few weeks after signing with Elizabeth, and was at auction two weeks after that. I ultimately signed with Shana Corey at Random House, an editor who had first liked my pitch during DVPit, a Twitter pitch contest.

 8. What a great road to publication story. How are you promoting your book during the pandemic and finding out about online conferences and interview opportunities to pursue?

Promotion during the pandemic has been a challenge for sure! My number one source for information comes from my debut class of MG and YA authors, #the21ders. We share opportunities and advice with each other and promote each other’s books.

My publisher, Random House Children’s Books, has also really adapted to this changing environment. They’ve provided many opportunities for me participate in events virtually and introduced me to lots of teachers and librarians in virtual spaces.

AND social media! I routinely use Twitter and Instagram to find my people!

9. That’s reassuring how Random House and the #the21ders helped you. What are you working on now? Is it different writing your manuscript now that you must meet a publishing deadline?


I am editing a stand-alone middle-grade contemporary novel set in rural North Carolina. It’ll be published with Random House in 2022. Thankfully, I drafted this story during pre-pandemic times.

I am also drafting another middle-grade novel and let’s just say it’s coming along very slowly.

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

Twitter: @creativelychrys; Instagram: @chrystaldgiles; website: www.chrystaldgiles.com

Giveaway Details

Chrysal has generously offered a hardback of Take Back the Block 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 February 6th. 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. 

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, January 27th I have an interview with author Gita Trelease and a giveaway of Everything That Burns as part of her blog tour

Monday, February 1st I’m participating in the February of 2021 Book Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, February 3rd I have an interview with debut author Jennifer Gruenke and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Of Silver and Shadow and my IWSG post

Monday, February 8th I have an interview with debut author Kristy Boyce and a giveaway of her YA contemporary Hot British Boyfriend

Wednesday, February 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Abigail Frank and a query critique giveaway

Monday, February 15th I have an interview with debut author Emily Victoria and a giveaway of her YA fantasy This Golden Flame

Tuesday, February 16th I’m participating in the Wish Big Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, February 17th I have an agent spotlight interview with Pam Gruber and a query critique giveaway

Monday, February 22th I have a guest post by debut author Sam Taylor and her agent Allison Hellegers and a giveaway of Sam’s YA fantasy We Are the Fire and a query critique giveaway by Allison

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Agent Spotlight: Tricia Skinner Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

 Today I’m thrilled to have agent Tricia Skinner here. She is a literary agent at Fuse Literary.

 Hi­ Tricia! Thanks so much for joining us.

 About Tricia:

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


I had what I consider to be a rather normal change in careers. In 2015, I was laid off from a job in academia and instead of immediately seeking employment within the same field, I spoke to my literary agent Laurie McLean about what I wanted to do next. The business side of publishing had always interested me, and Laurie supported my decision to become an agent. She trained me, supporting my move into an industry I had only seen from the point of view of an author. With her mentorship, I’ve built my client list in genres I love. I’m living my dream job, helping other authors enter and thrive in publishing. It’s a very satisfying role for me.

 About the Agency:

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

I think the underlying organization of most literary agencies is the same. All have agents who each have areas of specialization. We all have an internal or external person or agency handling subrights, contracts, marketing, etc. What Fuse offers on top of the expected benefits of working with an agency is a sharper personalized approach. We’re a small agency that is hands-on with our clients. We don’t run like the bottom line is all that counts. Each client is cared for based on what their career path requires; we don’t force them in the same box and expect them to create the same, produce the same, be the same. We recognize our clients as people who have various routes in their publishing careers.

 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?

My root area is adult genre fiction. I’m selectively adding MG to my list, and to a lesser degree YA. My focus is science fiction, fantasy, romance, and horror. I can separate those into subgenres, but that would take too much space to list! It’s necessary to point out that editor tastes change and I have to be aware of what they want and don’t want. That’s why I seek writers based on their skill at storytelling. I’m constantly seeking extraordinary books because those can withstand market fluctuations the best.

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

I’m more interested in who is creating the story. I’ve always encouraged writers from marginalized communities to query me because there are so many untold stories they can share. I want to explore different experiences and see a different point of view in genres I love.

 What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

I don’t represent faith-based/religious manuscripts, short story collections, screenplays, poetry, picture books, chapter books, erotica, novellas, or non-fiction. I won’t consider previously published or self-published books because they’re nearly impossible to sell unless they’re a blockbuster.

 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?

We have the same goal, which is to build and grow a successful publishing career. I signed them because they have extraordinary writing skills, but I also believe we’re suited on a personality level. I don’t sign people for one book. I sign them for what I believe will be a long, productive, positive business partnership. The lovely side effect to this has been the creation of new friendships with people who create stories I adore and who are amazing human beings.   

 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?

 Each client is different but, overall, any of them can expect me to be available to brainstorm ideas, help outline their story points, read their manuscript and provide detailed feedback and suggestions, conceptualize series, offer insight on the industry and where their story fits, and more. I’ll be as hand-on or hands-off during the process as they wish.

 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?

There’s only one preferred method - http://QueryMe.Online/querytricia. The submission portal keeps queries organized. I never read queries sent to me through any other medium. When I receive a query through my direct email or social media, I just delete it. As for the query letter, there are plenty of free online resources that detail exactly how to write one, what to include, how to structure it. My online submission form asks for specific information and leaves a spot to include a synopsis (not required) and the first 20 pages.

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

 I ask to see the first 20 pages of the manuscript without the prologue. Sadly, some writers ignore this and send the prologue, which is a waste when I will not read it. I don’t care what the prologue reveals. If the story won’t hook me from chapter one, there’s a problem.

 Response Time:

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

 I wish I could say I send a response within a week but that’s impossible. I read queries and manuscripts when I am not focused on my clients work. Clients are my top priority. I also can’t tell the future. In 2020, I had no idea COVID-19 would happen, or that my mother would die, or that I’d have major back surgery with a long recovery, or that I’d end up homeschooling my kid. My query and manuscript response time for 2020 was horrible. I still have a few responses to send. I can only apologize to those authors and do better in 2021.

 Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

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

 I love authors. I don’t care what path brought them to me! If you look at my current client list, you’ll see authors who’ve self-published or wrote for small presses. Editors want never-before-published manuscripts. If you are a self-published writer who wants an agent, send the agent an unpublished manuscript. An agent is going to focus on selling your work to a traditional house (Big 4) first.

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

 Agents will always adjust as publishing changes. There are so many options for great books. Streaming services, app-based reading, augmented reality, graphic novels, comic books, and foreign markets. I see agents as always being flexible because we see changes and shifts all the time. We anticipate many and help our clients accordingly.

 Clients:

 13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

My current client list can be found at https://www.triciaskinner.com/clients/. I’m continuing to build my list so expect that page to grow!

 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.

A recent interview: https://darlingaxe.com/blogs/news/book-broker-tricia-skinner

Links and Contact Info:

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

My personal agent site: https://www.triciaskinner.com/. Please view the MSWL page for submission information.

 My agency: https://www.fuseliterary.com/. Please view my Team Fuse page for submission information.

My main social media: https://twitter.com/4triciaskinner. No submissions or pitches accepted on any of my social media (or email).

Additional Advice:

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

Take the time to research the agents you’re interested in. Remember that any rejection received is for the manuscript and not personal. Look at the rejections you do receive for clues on what’s not working in the manuscript, then revise it to make it better/clearer/stronger.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Tricia.

Tricia is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment through February 6th. 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 do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

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

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

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

 

 

Guest Post: Agent Amy Brewer and Debut Author Dana Swift and Cast in Fireflight Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Dana Swift here with her agent Amy Brewer to share about her YA debut Cast in Fireflight. It sounds like a fantasy story with a unique magical system and hidden identities.

 Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

 


The first book in an epic, heart-pounding fantasy duology about two royal heirs betrothed to be married, but whose loyalties are torn, and a ruthless enemy who threatens their world, perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal, and Renée Ahdieh.

Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.

Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who's mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.

Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery's most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.

Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross...and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.

Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery's fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it's complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.

Now here’s Dana and Amy!

So glad to be here today! Thank you, Literary Rambles.

I think the best place to begin is the beginning. So, let me start with how I met my agent, Amy Brewer. And yes, met!

In 2018 I attended the DFW Writer’s Conference, which is run and hosted by the DFW Writer’s workshop. At the time I was an active member and officer so I helped out where I could.

On the Friday night before the event, I was at a cocktail hour, surrounded by my writing found family and literary agents. At one point I had a question for the President of the Workshop and when I found her, she was talking to an agent. The President introduced us and said the nicest thing a fellow writer can say, “Dana has a great book,” before leaving.

This was my first pitch of that conference and I hadn’t even walked over to pitch my work. The notecards in my head were still undefined and scrambled. But I did it. I told this lovely woman who my main character was and what she wanted in the world and then blurted out bits and pieces of conflict and comparison titles. By the end I was a pile of nerves, wondering aloud if that pitch even made sense. And it must have because Amy Brewer from Metamorphosis Literary Agency asked for the full manuscript of what would become CAST IN FIRELIGHT. A book that will hit shelves tomorrow after ten years of striving for this dream of publication.

Anything you would you like to add in regard to our first meeting and my pitch? What drew you in and made you request? And what do you recommend when pitching an agent, be that in person or through cold querying?

I loved the casual nature of the DFW cocktail hour where the staff and DFW team got to


socialize and chat with the agents and editors freely. You may have felt like it was a messy pitch but the main characters, plot, and hook, got me immediately. Just like the title of the prologue in Cast in Firelight “I Meet the Love of My Life and Slap Him in the Face” That is the kind of attention getter that I love. You also had the time and grace to explain that your manuscript had beta readers and that you knew the YA fantasy genre inside and out and that was a real plus for me asking for the full manuscript and not just a few chapters. When I read it the first time, I knew the ending wasn’t right and I gave Dana a revise and resubmit. She must have worked night and day because she resubmitted it within two weeks. I knew that any writer that had that kind of drive and passion was/is the kind of writer I want to work with.

When pitching an agent, I recommend practicing with friends in writing groups and beta readers. Both for queries and in-person pitches. Even if you say or read the words out loud and get feedback from friends it will get better. I also recommend doing a practice Twit-pitch just so you can narrow down your concept into acceptable elevator pitch form. Know your genre, know your word count, know what your plot points and hook are… and breath.

Oh wow, thank you Amy! I actually love the editing process more than drafting. Since getting an agent and editor I seem to thrive when I know what direction to take the book and make changes for the better. Plus, deep down I think I also felt the ending was a little off. You pushed me and gave me enough freedom to create a much better ending. It’s a shame I can’t say more about what I did wrong and what Amy advised, but I don’t want to spoil anyone. Maybe in a few months I’ll talk about it in depth for fellow writers who want to see how I changed so much in such a short turn around.

From an author’s point of view, I think pitching in person is a little different than writing the query. First, I begin differently. On a query I start with why I am querying a particular agent, inputting the research I found that led me to think we’d be a good match, or the agent would like the book. In-person I start with a more basic introduction: my name, the books title and its genre. Second, I shorten my in-person pitch to be a more basic one or two sentence summary. Amy’s advice on practicing and perfecting your pitch for Twitter pitching opportunities like PitMad is a great idea.

After the introduction and shortened pitch if the agent seems interested or has immediate follow up questions it devolves into more of a conversation, which makes the whole thing more relaxed and casual. On a written query I make it look/sound similar to the blurb on the back of a book, which is how you want your query to read.

I know many people won’t have the opportunity to go to conferences, and especially in the last year and months to come. But, it’s always a good skill to learn how to verbally describe your book (though I know it’s difficult) to better understand the premise and selling points. I’ve also been hearing about virtual conferences opportunities. 

What do you think of the virtual conferences? How are they different than in-person? Any advice for pitching authors?

I’ve had the honor of doing some virtual conference this year and I enjoyed them. When it came to pitches I feel like the authors were more comfortable because they were pitching from their own homes. They also asked more questions and I was happy to see that. What was missing from the online conference were the casual meet and greet situations that I really love about in-person conferences. Being online takes away my ability to alleviate author anxiety by being anonymous. I enjoy sitting down amongst authors and listening to them talk about books casually with their friends and conference mates. I like weighing in on questions and being part of groups without the gravitas of my title.

If I hear something that clicks with me, I will ask if the author is represented and then make a request. The brilliant and wonderful editor, Deb Werksman from Sourcebooks likes to have knit and pitch workshops where she knits and authors can knit or craft or color while they pitch to her and chat with friends in a casual environment. If authors can forget that you are an agent or editor and feel more comfortable chatting, we see deeper insight into the book, not just the highlights. Writing a book is personal and forcing that book into a one-page query or elevator pitch is painful because it becomes less personal, it is the authors first step toward making it a business. That is why the casual, at home, relaxed, knit-n-pitch is a great way to find authors. 

I love how you try to make writers comfortable and knit-n-pitches sounds amazing. Overall, I miss events so much. 2020 has been such a year. For me, it’s meant a lot of learning how to debut in a time where debuting has changed in major ways very quickly. I think networking for one has been so hard. I had many plans to attend local writing events and meet more authors. So, there has been a feeling of isolation. But at the same time, I’ve gone to virtual events I would never have been able to and connected online with my debut group in such wonderful ways. The writing community has always been supportive, but this year I think so many fellow writers have lent a helping hand in regard to promotion and being there to listen to each other talk through our own struggles. 

How did 2020 change work as an agent? What’s major differences in your daily routine and/or yearly? And if there aren’t any big changes what is an average day as agent like? 


I feel very lucky because I’ve always worked remotely as an agent. I have to, I live in Oklahoma. Before 2020, I had no issues jumping on a flight to either coast to do what needed to be done. So, just like everyone else in 2020 it is all done by Zoom meeting now. It evened the playing field in a way for me, because now the New York and L.A agents are in a similar boat. I have found that some editors are more apt to chat on the phone now because they miss the office environment and all of the book talk that we so love.

My routine has changed because my boys are at home. I have two teen sons and though I feel immensely lucky that they are old enough to learn online without any guidance from me, I miss the quiet reading time.

I guess my routine has changed because I sleep later now. Now I sleep till a luxurious 7am. I have coffee and check social media and wake-up and start returning emails within the hour. If I send an email before 8 am there will be a grammar mistake in it, I guarantee. Then it is calls or zoom meetings with editors and clients. I try to lunch away from my desk and in the afternoons I read and I research editors and shop manuscripts. That has changed too, before Covid, I generally knew when staff meetings were and when editors were most responsive, that has all gone sideways. There were “seasons” for when it was a good time to shop, and all of that has changed. I think the biggest changes have yet to unfold. Penguin Random House acquiring Simon and Schuster will have huge ripple effects throughout the industry. BEA in New York has been permanently canceled and I look forward to seeing what develops out of that void. I could go on and on. Overall, I look forward to the future and I know that no matter what changes come to this industry both good and bad, we will still exist because people love stories. 

It's so interesting how you were able to adapt and thrive because you were already working remotely. I know for me one thing in my routine that hasn’t changed is reading books. I’ve always loved Romance, but this year in particular I’ve been reading romance a lot more. Of course, I will always love fantasy stories as well. Some of favorites this year include: TWEET CUTE by Emma Lord, SHIELDED by KayLynn Flanders, BY THE BOOK by Amanda Sellet, and in adult romance, YOU DESERVE EACH OTHER by Sarah Hogle.

2021 books I’m anticipating include: HAPPILY EVER AFTERS by Elise Bryant (which just came out Jan 5th), PRIDE AND PREMEDITATION by Tirzah Price, THESE FEATERED FLAMES by Alexandra Overy and A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN by Laura Rueckert. Plus so many more! 

What books are you liking right now? Since I imagine readers want to know - any insights into what you want to see in your inbox? 

This is a hard one for me because I rarely need to venture outside my in-box for entertainment. Almost everything I read and love is published 2-3 years after I read it. That being said, the minute I get my delivery of Cast in Firelight, I’ll be settling down with a big cup of tea to have a blissful reread. Today, I’m finishing the soon to be released Tasty Dish, by Kelly Cain. Tasty Dish is a diverse contemporary romance and the second book in her Everheart Brothers series. The brothers are all chefs and they all find love in different ways and I love them so much. All of the books combine my favorite things, food, humor, angst and love.

Outside my in-box, I’m a total fan-girl. To be fair, I’m a fan-girl of all of my authors too. I’m anxiously awaiting Gena Showalter’s next book in her Gods of War series. I am patiently waiting for Patrick Rothfuss to publish his next book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series. I also hope I can read your fellow Delacorte author Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward series this year. I just bought N.K Jemisin’s, The City We Became and I can’t wait to dive into that one. I love her.

I was going to say that I’m reading more contemporary romance at the moment and enjoying light and positive works but I’m obviously waiting on several sci-fi fantasies too. I also think Bridgerton has inspired me to possibly take on another great historical romance author. As per my usual, I’m open to almost anything as long as it captivates my heart and imagination.  

You can see her wish list and how to query her here: https://www.metamorphosisliteraryagency.com/submissions

Thank you so much Amy! You were the first person to see potential in CAST IN FIRELIGHT and now it is one day away from hitting the shelves and e-readers. The journey was long and filled with huge joys like seeing the cover for the first time and holding the final book in my hands to disappointments and hardship with a Pandemic, but thank you for being there with me through it all. 

Thank you, Dana, I always appreciate to opportunity to chat about books. It is easy to recognize a wonderful book like your Cast in Firelight. Your imagination, creativity, and earnest heart have birthed brilliant, complex, and deep characters and you placed them in a world like no other. Your courage, strength, and work ethic has left little for me to worry about. You deserve every success. That being said… get writing on the next book. 

            I’m on it! In fact I can’t wait to dive back into edits for CAST IN FIRELIGHT’s sequel after the first one releases, and then onto starting a whole new book! 

Thanks for all the advice, Dana and Amy! You can find Dana at: 

www.danaswiftbooks.com

https://linktr.ee/DanaSwift 

Giveaway Details 

Dana has generously offered a hardback of Cast in Firelight and Amy has generously 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 January 30th. 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. 

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Tricia Skinner and query critique giveaway

Monday, January 25th I have an interview with debut author Chrystal Giles and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Take Back the Block

Wednesday, January 27th I have an interview with author Gita Trelease and a giveaway of Everything That Burns as part of her blog tour

Wednesday, February 3rd I have an interview with debut author Jennifer Gruenke and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Of Silver and Shadow and my IWSG post

Monday, February 8th I have an interview with debut author Kristy Boyce and a giveaway of her YA contemporary Hot British Boyfriend

Wednesday, February 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Abigail Frank and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday!