Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Lane Clarke Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/9/2023
  • Jane Chun Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/16/2023
  • Morgan Hughes Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 11/6/2023
  • Ashley Reisinger Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/11/2023

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "H" as of 5/11/2023 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Debut Author Interview: Megan Reyes and Heroes of Havensong: Dragonboy Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m super excited to have debut author Megan Reyes here to share about her MG fantasy, Heroes of Havensong: Dragonboy. I’m looking forward to reading it because it sounds like a fast-paced story with a unique magical system.

Here’s a blurb from Megan’s website:

This timeless fantasy debut follows four children—a boy-turned-dragon, his reluctant dragon rider, a runaway witch, and a young soldier—bound together by the Fates themselves to save their world—and magic itself—from being destroyed. 

Blue, River, Wren, and Shenli all grew up on different sides of a war they didn’t start. Their land has been torn apart over centuries of conflict, with humans taught to fear all things magical, dragons driven to near extinction, and magic under attack. But an ancient prophecy has put the four of them on a collision course with destiny—and with each other—in a mission to heal the fractured realm once known as Haven.  

All of them must follow the threads of Fate, leaving behind the lives and homes they know to discover the truth about the seemingly endless war—and the truth about themselves. As the barriers between them begin to crumble, can they unravel the lies they’ve been taught to believe in order to restore the balance between humans, dragons, and magic before it’s too late?

Follower News

Before I get to Megan's interview, I have Follower News to share. Cathrina Constantine has a new YA release, Defy the Stars. Here's a blurb: Sage possesses a forceful energy for good and evil.Crew's untapped powers are growing stronger by the day. Survival will demand they rely on each other. And here's a buy link: bit.ly/defyingthestars 

Interview with Megan Reyes

Hi Megan! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’m so thrilled to be here! Thank you for having me. A little about me: I am a mom of four boys and married to the greatest guy ever. We live in Northern California, where I grew up. Other than reading and writing, I enjoy painting, drawing, going on walks, and collecting dragon and fox figurines.

I’ve been creating stories my whole life. When I was a kid I imagined far-away worlds in my head, drew comic books, then later I shifted into full-page stories. Eventually, I decided to try writing novels, which I’ve been doing for 13 years now. Dragonboy was the 5th book I wrote when I got my literary agent. I’ve learned a lot on my journey, especially the importance of studying story craft and finding the right editors and critique partners.

2. That’s great that you’ve been writing since you were a kid, Where did you get your idea for Heroes of Havensong: Dragonboy?

One single sentence popped into my head: “Every twenty-five years, the king was eaten by a dragon”. This ended up being the first line in Dragonboy, almost word for word! With that single sentence, a ton of questions flooded my mind. What kind of kingdom would allow their kings to be eaten, and why? Who else lives in this world? Why are the dragons eating kings? From there, my characters came to life, as did the land of Haven. It became clear that this was a story that would be told from the points of view of 4 kids—coming from 4 different parts of Haven.

About Your Writing Process

3. What a great first line. I read on your website that you are a total plotter. Share about your plotting process and why plotting in general and how you do it works for you.

I am very much a plotter! Whenever I get a new story idea, I grab a new notebook and jot down all my ideas. So everything starts out as a jumbled mess. But once I get a sense of the main characters and the world they live in, then I start to focus in on plot points. With all of these notes, I’m able to write out a list of what happens—this list eventually becomes the chapters of the book. All of this produces a solid outline of the story. So by the time I sit down to actually write the book, I have a good sense of where the story is headed.

I think plotting works for me for a few reasons. One, I’m a naturally fairly organized person. Two, I tend to write stories with big sweeping worlds with big casts of characters. I like to have a sense of where my characters are headed—as in, how the entire series is going to end. From there, it’s a matter a going step by step (chapter by chapter) in order to get them there. Being a plotter allows me to hold all of this information in my head. But I will say, even with my love of plotting, when I sit down to write, I am very much open to making changes. In fact, my characters constantly surprise me and take me in directions I didn’t see coming. And that can be really fun.

4.  It sounds like you’ve figured out a good balance between plotting and being open to new directions that your story can take. You have four fairly major characters-- Blue, River, Wren, and Shenli—in your story. How did you create them as unique characters with their own character ARCs?

Yes, I have four main characters, each with their own point-of-view chapters. Honestly, this took a lot of work! I came up with a detailed backstory for each. They are all very different kiddos. They come from four different lands and have unique personalities and quirks. The most challenging thing is making sure they each have strong character arcs—including their own internal journey as well as external journey—which really does feel like I’m writing four books at once.

5. What was a challenge you faced in writing this book pre- or post-getting your agent? How did you overcome it?

I think the biggest challenge was how long revisions took. I went through at least ten rounds of revisions from first draft to final draft (the draft that made it to publication) over a period of four years. My editor, Liesa Abrams, is fantastic and she really helped me dig into the details of world-building as well as the emotional character journeys. When you’re writing a fantasy series, there are a lot of foundational things established in book one, so I really wanted to get all the details right. What helped persevere was imagining holding the final copy of my book and imagining how proud I would feel. All those rounds of revisions really were worth it!

Your Road to Publication

6. Joanna Volpe is your agent. How did she become your agent, and what was your road to publication like?

Joanna is fantastic. I couldn’t ask for a better agent! But it was a long road. It took 10 years, 5 novels, and over 200 query rejections before my Dragonboy manuscript landed with Jo. Luckily for me, she loved it. She doesn’t take on very many new clients so her belief in my story was (and is) a major confidence boost. She discovered my story through my query letter. Along with the letter was a short writing sample—maybe the first ten pages. She then asked for the full manuscript and about a month later, she offered representation. That phone call was honestly one of the best moments of my life and I am grateful on a daily basis that I’m her client.

7. What was something that surprised you about getting an agent or the process of getting your book published?

It’s surprising how long everything takes. From book deal (that is, getting an offer from my editor) to publication was just over 2 years.

Also, I was surprised by how many people it takes to make a book and get it out into the world. First, there’s all the work with your editor to shape the manuscript. There are also copyeditors and proofreaders who help clean up the writing on a line-by-line basis. Then there’s a whole team of people at the publisher who design the cover and pitch your book to booksellers (marketing and publicity) and, in my case (because it’s a kidlit book), teachers and librarians. My book is absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t have done it without the amazing Labyrinth Road team at Random House Children’s.

Promoting Your Book

8.  Did you do a pre-order campaign or something to celebrate your cover reveal? If so, what did you do? Were you happy with the response?

I did a cover reveal with the blog: From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. That was a lot of fun. My pre-order campaign is connected to my local bookstore, A Seat at the Table Books. Anyone who orders from them will receive a signed copy of the book, a bookmark, 2 exclusive stickers (a fox and a dragon—art by me) and a postcard with a world map of the Land of Haven. I’ve been really happy with the pre-orders!

9. How are you planning to market your book? What advice do you have for other authors getting ready to release their debut book?

My marketing was/is done on social media, and it’s been super low key. Really, I don’t ever want to seem like someone who’s being pushy to sell books. So for me, social media is all about making connections with authors and readers. I want to share my life as well as support other authors. And also talk about my book from time to time. There are other authors who take a more active/assertive approach by launching a street team, holding giveaways, etc, but that’s just not really my style. I don’t have the energy to go “all out” on social media. And that’s okay. You have to find what works for you.

10. I like your advice to find what works for you. What are you working on now?

I am currently wrapping up edits for book 2 of the Heroes of Havensong series and I’m really excited about it. There will be a lot of favorite characters returning as well as some fun new ones. I hope readers will enjoy the continued adventure with Blue, River, Wren, and Shenli.

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

Twitter: @MReyesWrites

Instagram: @MReyesWrites

Facebook: Facebook.com/MReyesWrites

Website: meganreyes.com

You can preorder **signed** copies of my book (plus get exclusive book swag) at my amazing local bookstore:


Or anywhere books are sold:


Giveaway Details

Megan’s publisher is generously offering a hardback of giveaway of Heroes of Havensong: Dragonboy 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 4th. 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 or Megan on her social media sites, 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 book giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

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

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Wednesday, February 1 I have an agent/debut author guest post with Claire Friedman and M.K. Lobb and a giveaway of M.K.’s YA fantasy/mystery Seven Faceless Saints

Thursday, February 2 I’m participating in the February Favorites Giveaway Hop

Monday, February 6 I have an agent spotlight interview with Lori Steel and a query critique giveaway

Monday, February 13 I have a guest post by Shawn Peters and a giveaway of book 1 or book 2 in his The Unforgettable Logan Foster series

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

Monday, February 20 I have an agent spotlight interview with Lori Steel and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday, February 1!


Winter Wishes Giveaway Hop- $10 Amazon Gift Card


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Winter Wishes Giveaway Hop hosted by MamatheFox. I hope you're having a good start to the new year. Mine has been fantastic and full of really good changes in my life. I hope you're having a super start to 2023 too.

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

 I'm offering a $10 gift card to Amazon for this giveaway.

 Giveaway Details

One lucky entrant selected by the entry form will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Open to entrants internationally as long The Book Depository ships to you for free, 13 years and older. Open for entry from 1/16 – 1/31/2023 at 11:59 pm EST. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email to claim this prize or a new winner will be selected.

Please note that you must be a blog follower and leave a blog comment to enter the contest. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Today I also have an agent spotlight interview with Kortney Price and a query critique giveaway  

Monday, January 23 I have an interview with debut author Megan Reyes and a giveaway of her MG fantasy Heroes of Havensong

Wednesday, February 1 I have an agent/debut author guest post with Claire Friedman and M.K. Lobb and a giveaway of M.K.’s YA fantasy/mystery Seven Faceless Saints

Monday, February 6 I have an agent spotlight interview with Lori Steel and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!

And here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Literary Agent Interview: Kortney Price Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Kortney Price here. She is a literary agent at Belcastro Agency.

Hi­ Kortney! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Kortney:

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

When I started out, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in the publishing industry. All I knew was that I had to be here. I applied to every internship I could and landed a spot at an agency. The minute I stepped virtual foot in the query box, I knew I was absolutely on the right track. Who doesn’t love a bookish treasure hunt? The more I learned about agenting and how I could help authors reach their dreams, the more I knew this was exactly what I wanted/needed to be doing.

I’ve been an agent for about three years and I’ve been meticulously building my small list of ridiculously talented authors throughout that time. My first ever sale as a full-fledged agent (Just Wild Enough by Marta Magellan) came out last year and is repping Latinx women in STEM and doing well! I’m excited to be building my list up even more this year and getting even more stories into the hands of young readers.

About the Agency:

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

I work with the spectacularly talented people at Belcastro Agency. Something you won’t find on our website is that we are a collaborative bunch and so are always sharing. Whether it be advice, feedback or forwarding submissions that might be a better fit for a teammate, there’s a constant communication within the group. I love the amount of wisdom and experience that allows us to bring to advocating for and advising our authors.

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 work with picture book, MG, YA and adult stories. Picture books that shatter me tend to be my favorites…Train to Somewhere by Eve Bunting still makes me want to cry after all these years. In MG, my tastes tend to be all over the map. In YA, I tend toward either the light rom-com or the spooky, dark stories. I could go into SO much detail on this, but you can find a pretty comprehensive list on my MSWL: https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/kortney-price/  

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

Anything that has a super solid character arc is always awesome to see. I’m really looking for mysteries, survival stories and contemporary in both MG and YA right now.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

Inside of the categories/genres I list on my wish list, there are a couple of things that I’m just not super drawn to. Dreamscapes, angels/demons and traditional vampires aren’t things I find myself connecting with often. Books about terminal illnesses or cancer aren’t generally my cup of tea.

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 think my philosophy as an agent stems from my time working with children with disabilities. I grew up working at a summer camp for these incredible individuals, but some people in my life would openly say they weren’t comfortable with “those people.” As an agent, I aim to represent books that give readers a place to learn about the “other” and where they can grow in understanding and empathy.

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 love working on edits! However, I try to keep the number of passes to around three, with each edit round focusing in on smaller and smaller details. Typically it’s something like global edits first, then line edits and finally a small round that is more of a polish.

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?

You can query me through my query manager. I’m really looking for a query that draws me into a story. The best advice I have for this is to read blurbs on the back covers of books and craft your query in a similar fashion. I also love it when an author gives me all the quick stats in the first paragraph of the letter. A pretty good formula is “Title is a Category, Genre story complete at Wordcount.

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

I don’t really have anything that will cause me to automatically reject a query. If you submit to me and then realize there’s a formatting issue or that you misspelled my name, don’t fret for a second. One thing I do dislike is a query letter written from the POV of the main character in the story. It’s a cute idea! But I think I connect more when I feel like I can hear the voice of the author in their letter.

Response Time:

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

I’m a relatively slow reader when it comes to response times. I want to make sure that every query and manuscript gets equal consideration, so I do tend to take a bit longer to respond. The actual timeline will vary, but I respond to everything I receive and so if you haven’t heard, I promise I’ll respond as soon as I can.

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?

Absolutely! Someone who has been through the publishing process whether that be through self-publishing, a small press or a larger publisher, brings great experience and an understanding of the industry that I admire and look for.

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?

I think that we see agent roles shifting constantly, but at its core the job is always staying the same. We’re advocates for authors, and I don’t see that ever changing.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

The magnificent: Tiffany Elmer, Shay Fan, Natasha Khan and Marta Magellan

Interviews and Guest Posts:

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


Links and Contact Info:

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

Query Manager: https://querymanager.com/query/kortneyprice

MSWL: https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/kortney-price/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kortney_price

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kortney8821/

Website: www.belcastroagency.com

Additional Advice:

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

The thing I always want to leave authors with is that I’m rooting for them! This industry is so tough sometimes and it can be hard to have hope. We will all get a thousand no’s, but it only takes one yes to get that much closer to your dream coming true.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kortney.

­Kortney 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 January 28th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

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

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

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









Debut Author Interview: Tamika Burgess and Sincerely Sicily Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Tamika Burgess here to share about her MG contemporary Sincerely Sicily. It’s gotten rave reviews and deals with issues like crushes and angst about going to a new school that many middle graders can relate to as well as dealing with discrimination as a Black Panamanian. I can’t wait to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

From debut author Tamika Burgess comes the captivating and empowering story of Sicily Jordan--a Black Panamanian fashionista who rocks her braids with pride--who learns to use her voice and take pride in who she is while confronting prejudice in the most unexpected of places.

Sicily Jordan's worst nightmare has come true! She's been enrolled in a new school, with zero of her friends and stuck wearing a fashion catastrophe of a uniform. But however bad Sicily thought sixth grade was going to be, it only gets worse when she does her class presentation.

While all her classmates breezed through theirs, Sicily is bombarded with questions on how she can be both Black and Panamanian. She wants people to understand, but it doesn't feel like anyone is ready to listen--first at school and then at home. Because when her abuela starts talking mess about her braids, Sicily's the only one whose heart is being crumpled for a second time.

Staying quiet may no longer be an option, but that doesn't mean Sicily has the words to show the world just what it means to be a proud Black Panamanian either. Even though she hasn't written in her journal since her abuelo passed, it's time to pick up her pen again--but will it be enough to prove to herself and everyone else exactly who she is?

Hi Tamika! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

I am a HarperCollins debut middle-grade author. Besides writing, I enjoy binging TV shows, listening to true-crime podcasts, and online shopping. During the day, I work at a K-12 school in the Student Services Department, assisting mild-moderate special needs high school students. 

Growing up, I always enjoyed writing, as it came naturally to me. In 2012, I read R.J. Palacio’s Wonder and was so captivated by the story and the writing that I told myself, “I have to do this too.” And in 2013, I started the first version of what would become my debut MG novel, Sincerely Sicily

2. Where did you get the idea for Sincerely Sicily?

Sincerely Sicily is loosely based on my experiences growing up and came out of a need for representation and understanding. As a child, I didn’t fully comprehend how to explain my Black Panamanian background when people asked, “What are you?” Being asked that question, coupled with the fact that I was growing up in a predominantly white community as a Black Latina, I often felt out of place. My peers were all the same, and not only was I of a different race, but my culture was entirely out of their understanding.

I always wished for a point of reference, someone I could point to and say, “I’m just like them.” But characters in books, movies, and TV shows didn’t look like me, nor did their experiences resemble mine. So I wrote the book I needed and would have loved to read as a child.

Your Writing Process

3. Every kid needs that point of reference. It’s good you’re providing it to kids who share your backround. I read that your book started as a picture book and that you later decided to write the story as a middle grade novel. Why did you make this decision?

As I was writing, I realized I had so much I wanted to say, and that would not work for the 500-word requirement that picture books currently have. Because I wanted to reach a young audience, I settled on middle-grade because I feel that is when we start really learning about ourselves and discovering the world around us.

4. I also read that it took you ten years to write Sincerely Sicily. I think many of us have had a similar experience, including me. Share what your process was for writing and editing your book over this time period. What did you learn that will help you complete a manuscript faster in the future?

When I started writing, I was very focused on completing my manuscript. But after a few years, my desire for it fizzled out. I would work on it occasionally, then would leave it alone for months.

Finally, in 2017 the manuscript was done, but I didn't know what to do with it. Then in 2018, I realized I needed to complete what I started. So I paid a freelance proofreader, got my manuscript as polished as possible, and then started the querying process. That led to me signing with my agent, Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary Agency, in 2019 and then signing with HarperCollins in January 2021.

Going through the process, I have learned the importance of feedback and community. While writing Sincerely Sicily, I was a part of a critique group. But after a while, everyone moved on, and I struggled to find another group. Writing is sometimes a lonely process. So having people who can relate to what you’re experiencing is important, and I found it to be beneficial as I start the writing process for my second middle-grade novel. 

5. I’ve also gone through periods where I had to set down my manuscript for months due to my family and full-time job. Sincerely Sicily is loosely based on your life. Did this make it harder or easier to write Sicily’s story? What advice do you have for other authors who are trying to write a story based on their own experiences or a character like themselves?

Loosely basing the book on my life made the process very easy. Sicily’s parents have some qualities of my parents, and her brother is similar to mine. Other characters in the book are based on people I have known throughout my life. 

I advise writers to write based on their experiences and pay attention to their surroundings. That quirky thing that a sibling or friend constantly does can be used in your writing. That one-liner or corny joke your dad always tells, incorporate that. Using real-life examples in your writing makes the story realistic and relatable. 

Your Road to Publication

6. Your agent is Regina Brooks. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Years ago, I attended a writing conference, and a Serendipity Literary Agency agent was on one of the panels. Back then, I was in no place to submit my manuscript, but I did take note of all the literary agencies I came across so I could research them when my manuscript was done.

Fast forward to 2019. I was finally ready to query agents. I started in February of that year and researched and queried agents looking for manuscripts like mine. I kept getting responses from agents that my writing was good, but they were unsure of how to handle the topic my book centered on. (I was glad those agents were honest about that). After a month, I found the paper from that writer’s conference years prior and researched Serendipity and Regina Brooks. Two weeks later, she responded and asked to see my full manuscript, and by May 2019, I had signed my contract with her. 

From 2019 to 2020, we did rounds of revisions on my manuscript. I spent much of the 2020 quarantine working on editing and revising. Then at the end of 2020, Regina felt the manuscript was ready to go out to publishers. In January 2021, I had two interested publishers, and by the end of the month, I decided to sign with HarperCollins. 

7. What was something that surprised you about the process of working with an agent or editor?

I didn’t have a problem with any of my agent and editor’s revision suggestions, so overall, the revision process with both were a great learning process for me. I was surprised about the topics and things that caught their attention that they felt needed more detail or could be cut out completely. I will remember and consider the things I learned during the revision and editing process while working on manuscripts in the future.


8. You worked in advertising for six years before making a career change to writing. Has your advertising background helped you when deciding how to market your book?

No, because my past advertising career was based in print retail advertising. I am pushing for more online or in-person marketing and promotion for Sincerely Sicily.

9. How are you planning to promote your book? What advice do you have for other debut authors about creating a plan to market their first book?

Honestly, since this is my first go-round with this marketing and promo thing, I am doing things my editor and agent suggest. I also have some author friends who have suggested a few things. I plan to do school and library visits and bookstore events in order to speak directly to my target audience.

My advice to other debut authors is not to let the process stress them out. Authors can follow many marketing plans online, and it’s easy to get caught up in trying to do everything. The main thing I have focused on is doing what I am comfortable with and what will not cause me to feel overwhelmed. 

10. That’s great advice not to let marketing stress you out. What are you working on now?

Next, I am developing some picture book ideas and writing my next middle-grade novel. Both will include Panamanian history or cultural elements.

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

Purchase SINCERELY SICILY: bit.ly/3OewSSB

Add on Goodreads: bit.ly/3DtGeXZ

Subscribe to Tamika’s newsletter: tamikaburgess.com/newsletter

IG and Twitter: @ TameeksB

Website: https://www.tamikaburgess.com/

Giveaway Details

Tamika and I are offering an Amazon e-book giveaway of Sincerely Sicily 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 21st. 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 or Tamika on her social media sites, 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 e-book giveaway is International.

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

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Monday, January 16 I have an agent spotlight interview with Kortney Price and a query critique giveaway and am participating in the Winter Wishes Giveaway Hop

Monday, January 23 I have an interview with debut author Megan Reyes and a giveaway of her MG fantasy Heroes of Havensong

Wednesday, February 1 I have an agent/debut author guest post with Claire Friedman and M.K. Lobb and a giveaway of M.K.’s YA fantasy/mystery Seven Faceless Saints

Monday, February 6 I have an agent spotlight interview with Lori Steel and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!


Surviving a Sequel in a Series by Debut Author Kaylie Smith and A Ruinous Fate Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday and Happy Holidays Everyone! I hope you had a great holiday season. Today I’m excited to have debut author Kaylie Smith here to share about her YA fantasy A Ruinous Fate. It sounds like a real page turner with great world building that makes me excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Fate does not choose the weak. Fate chooses the ready.

Calliope Rosewood is a witch with a long streak of bad luck. Like all witches in Illustros, her fate is directly tied to Witch’s Dice—powerful artifacts that have blessed her kind with limitless magic but also set them on a path toward destruction. Cursed with unspeakable powers that terrify even the most dangerous witches and fae, Calla deserted her coven four years ago and has been in hiding with her two best friends since. But Calla is also hiding a grave secret: She is only three Rolls away from becoming the last Blood Warrior and starting the Final War that will decimate her people and eradicate their magic.

After a betrayal from her ex leads her one step closer to fulfilling that age-old prophecy, Calla is desperate to do whatever it takes to reset her fate . . . even if that means journeying into the deadly Neverending Forest with said ex and his enticing, yet enigmatic older brother to find the one being who can help her forge her own path. As Calla ventures farther into the enchanted woods, she finds her heart torn between her past desires and the alluring new possibilities of her future and learns that choosing your own destiny may come with deadly consequences.

Featuring a charming and chaotic ensemble cast of characters, this first book in a planned series by debut author Kaylie Smith will sweep readers away with its utterly immersive world building, swoon-worthy romance, and action-packed storytelling.

Before I get to Kalie’s guest post, 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 this month with me are Jemima Pett, Debs Carey, Kim Lajevardi, Sarah Foster, and T. Powell Coltrin!

Optional Question: Do you have a word for the year? Why?

I’d never thought of having a word for the year. But it’s a great idea. My word for 2023 would be hope. Here’s what I have hope for:

·       Hope for happy new beginnings in my life

·       Hope for a year with less work and volunteering so I can focus my energy on what really brings meaning to my life

·       Hope for wonderful experiences with my daughter as we get ready for and enjoy her wedding

·       Hope that I will finish my final revisions to this manuscript

What’s your word for the day?

Now here's Kaylie! 

The Second Book Curse: My Advice for Surviving Sequels in a Series

By Kaylie Smith

 I’m currently working in my office, the only light in my house during this late witching-hour is from the glow of my laptop screen. I just finished the last round of developmental edits for the follow up to my debut fantasy novel, A Ruinous Fate, after five grueling weeks of pouring over these words until they all began to blur together. It is finally my turn to learn the lesson I’ve been warned about from so many writers who have come before me—sequels are difficult.

            Over the process of crafting the sophomore book in this series I feel like I’ve finally begun to scratch the surface and pinpoint exactly why sequels are so hard to write. Is it the pressure of following up the first book with something better? Is it that the first book has left me creatively drained? Is it that this book is just filler to a more exciting later installment of the series? Truthfully, it’s the fear that it’s a little bit of all of that. It really took deciding to ignore the heavy imposter syndrome that weaseled its way into my mind after finishing book one to come up with a process that worked to overcome my fear of the second book curse. Now, I’m going to share a snapshot of my process with you, though I urge you to remember what worked for me may not work for everyone and my motto as a writer and author is forever: there is no wrong way to write a book!                                                         

How I write sequels:

1. Map out how your characters are different from book one and what their new goals are—both emotionally and in relation to the plot.

Your characters are most likely very different people from who they were at the beginning of your first book, which is why sequels can be so hard to navigate. Their motivations need to change according to the new situations the plot has dragged them into, but they still need to act in-character so your audience can recognize the heroes and heroines (and even villains) they’ve come to know and love. A way I like to do this is making sure each character’s mannerisms and voice stay consistent and grounded even when their emotional states and relationships shift.

2. Make sure the plot of your sequel is accomplishing a main task or goal that is unique to this particular book.

I found it really helped to make sure I wasn’t writing filler by asking myself if the characters’ arcs throughout book two advanced them to a new place of growth the same way book one did and if something in the plot was accomplished that would lead them closer to the final solution of the overarching goal of the series. Making sure my sequel isn’t just a bridge for them to walk across unscathed to get to the action of the next installment is what led to certain plot decisions I hadn’t originally intended, but definitely made the book, and therefore the overall series, better as a whole. Always thinking of a series as having one major overall goal and each installment having different individual ones that build upon each other to create the Final Solution has helped me outline my series immensely.

3. Expand the world-building and build up from the foundation you’ve already laid down.

I found what really helped me get through my second book creatively was exploring more places in the world I had begun to build in book one. Not only the physical places and settings, but the magic system and beings that lived within the book as well. It’s so hard to include every little detail in a first book when you have fewer pages and word counts to work with, not to mention making sure you keep the pace up enough that the reader doesn’t get too board or overloaded with information. Sequels are where you can start to include all the little facts that make the world unique and interesting that you didn’t necessarily have room for before.

4. Advance your character’s relationships and resist the urge to include fan service.

A big part of the reason I choose not to read reviews (aside from the millions of other reasons) is because I want to make sure I tell the story most authentic to the characters and not get influenced with what the readers think they may want. This doesn’t just apply to romance either! As an avid reader myself I can’t tell you how many times I wished an author would’ve just ‘let go’ of a character or two that I loathed. In the end, however, you have to follow your gut, not to mention so many different readers will have completely opposite opinions and you cannot possibly please everyone so you might as well please yourself! As for advancing your character’s relationships—relationships are messy and the bonds between two people are constantly ebbing and flowing. Making sure my characters aren’t trapped in the same cycles with other characters, but are constantly growing and morphing, in goods ways and bad, is always my goal. I want to make sure the relationships in my second books are building on where they ended in the first book and the characters are constantly asking themselves if the people they’re surrounding themselves with are who they want to be around and that they aren’t just there because the plot is forcing them to be, or because they have no other options.

Above all, these four tasks are what really pushed me to write the best possible story for my characters and their journeys. Whether readers will respond the same way to the sequel as they did the first book or agree with all of my choices is out of my hands. The satisfaction I’ve gotten from writing a book I’m proud of and the excitement I feel to share the next part of this series, however, is firmly in my grasp.

You can find me on social media as @kaylsmoon (Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok are my favorite) or on my website at kayliesmithbooks.com!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kaylie.

Giveaway Details

Kaylie has generously offered an ARC of A Ruinous Fate 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 21st. 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 or Kaylie on her social media sites, 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 ARC giveaway is U.S.

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Monday, January 9 I have an interview with debut author Tamika Burgess and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Sincerely Sicily

Monday, January 16 I have an agent spotlight interview with Kortney Price and a query critique giveaway and am participating in the Winter Wishes Giveaway Hop

Monday, January 23 I have an interview with debut author Megan Reyes and a giveaway of her MG fantasy Heroes of Havensong

Wednesday, February 1 I have an agent/debut author guest post with Claire Friedman and M.K. Lobb and a giveaway of M.K.’s YA fantasy/mystery Seven Faceless Saints

Monday, February 6 I have an agent spotlight interview with Lori Steel and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!