Book Giveaway!

Monday, September 26, 2016

So because I got the query critique all screwed up the past couple months, I wanted to reward you guys with another contest to make up for it!  Also, I'm clearing out my bookshelves. 



Everyone who subscribes to my blog this week by inputting their email in the subscription box on the right side panel will be entered to win a giveaway of 5 of the books I represent!  If you already subscribe to my blog, then you're already entered.
  1. Jessica Arnold, THE LOOKING GLASS
  2. Suzanna Kamata, THE MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN (ARC)
  3. Erin Peabody, A WEIRD AND WILD BEAUTY
  4. Brianna DuMont, FANTASTIC FUGITIVES
  5. Kristin Bartley Lenz, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO
Have fun entering!

Query Critique Winner

Monday, September 19, 2016

With lots drum-rolling (because there has been much further ado, sorry!), I am happy to announce this month's query critique winner is Patricia Wentzel!  Here is her original query:

Dear Carrie,


Sixteen-year-old Zora ran from the flames that killed her grandmother and destroyed her homeless camp only to find herself in another world, Aldanea. She’s been brought there by the Exemplars who are supposed to be watching over the six lands of Aldanea. They’ve done a lousy job as far as she can tell because an evil dictator, Parmon McKurick, and his pet mages are threatening to invade and signs of evil are everywhere. Why do they need her? To find the other teenaged members of the Circle of Seven, the group that will lead the fight against McKurick.


Seeker, Healer, Warrior, Mage, Mystic, Muse, and Maker—all the roles must be filled if the Circle is to save Aldanea and Zora must find them. If only she knew who they were and where to look. No, that would be too simple, too easy. The Exemplars sometimes lend a hand but their powers are limited and she must do the legwork.


Quinn the Warrior encounters Zora in the Tangled Wood and together they fight off the first of many enemies. Locating the other members of the Circle takes Quinn and Zora on a perilous journey through Aldanea’s six lands and cultures. Zora, preoccupied by memory loss and grief, doesn’t expect to fall in love with a woman of the Circle. Unfortunately, romance within the Circle proves fraught with problems, not just for Zora. Other members of the Circle deal with their own challenges like adapting to physical limitations and the attraction of prestige and power.


Their largely faceless foes are persistent, attacking, kidnapping and torturing them. Subtle temptations arise and they must beware the unlooked for boon.


As Zora tracks down each member of the Circle, one by one, she struggles to cope under the onslaught of relentless enemies and emotional land mines. It seems less and less likely her quest will succeed. One thing is certain: without the Circle to defend it, Aldanea is doomed.


CIRCLE OF SEVEN is a young adult fantasy novel complete at 99,000 words. As a neurodiverse, differently abled, LGBTQ writer I have striven to create a complex world where diversity is not just a buzzword.


Thank you for your time and consideration.


Patricia J. Wentzel


And here is my critique:

Dear Carrie,
 
 
Sixteen-year-old Zora ran from the flames that killed her grandmother and destroyed her homeless camp only to find herself in another world,: Aldanea. She’s been brought there by the Exemplars who are supposed to be watching over the six lands of Aldanea. [This sentence is choppy and leaves the reader confused.  What are the six lands of Aldanea?  What are the Exemplars...does "watch over" mean they just observe or do they defend?  Use this space to go into detail--but not so much that you get off track!] They’ve done a lousy job as far as she can tell because an evil dictator, Parmon McKurick, and his pet mages are threatening to invade and signs of evil are everywhere. ["Everywhere" as in all the six lands or other worlds like Zora's?  What signs?  Does Zora see people being oppressed or murdered?] Why do they need her? To find the other teenaged members of the Circle of Seven, the group that will lead the fight against McKurick.
 
 Seeker, Healer, Warrior, Mage, Mystic, Muse, and Maker—all the roles must be filled if the Circle is to save Aldanea and Zora must find them. [What is Zora's role?  Or does she not have a position to fill in the Circle and only has to bring them together?] If only she knew who they were and where to look. No, that would be too simple, too easy. [This is a little too flippant.  Change to something like the following.]  If only it were that easy. The Exemplars sometimes lend a hand but their powers are limited and she must do the legwork.
 
 Quinn the Warrior encounters Zora in the Tangled Wood [By accident? And is there anything particular that leads Zora to realize Quinn is the Warrior?] and together they fight off McKurick's mages the first of many enemies [Too generic.  Are they fighting McKurick's mages?]. Locating the other members of the Circle takes Quinn and Zora on a perilous journey through Aldanea’s six lands and cultures. Zora, preoccupied by memory loss and grief, doesn’t expect to fall in love with a woman of the Circle. Unfortunately, romance within the Circle proves fraught with problems, not just for Zora. Other members of the Circle deal with their own challenges like adapting to physical limitations and the attraction of prestige and power. [This last sentence is also too vague.  Give us some specifics here.] 
 
Their largely faceless foes [Why are they faceless?  Don't they know who they are?] are persistent, attacking, kidnapping and torturing them. Subtle temptations arise and they must beware the unlooked for an unexpected boon.
 
 As Zora tracks down each member of the Circle, one by one, she struggles to cope under the onslaught of relentless enemies and emotional land mines. It seems less and less likely her quest will succeed. One thing is certain: without the Circle to defend it, Aldanea is doomed. [ This section is too vague, too.  The description you are giving here could be about a lot of fantasy novels.  Give us some specifics to draw us in and make us want to read more!]
 
 CIRCLE OF SEVEN is a young adult fantasy novel complete at 99,000 words. As a neurodiverse, differently abled, LGBTQ writer I have striven to create a complex world where diversity is not just a buzzword.
 
 Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
 Patricia J. Wentzel

What did you guys think of this?  I think this is a good query with the potential to be great.  I was interested by the concept of a a girl needing to bring together seven prophesied teens and the idea of traveling to different lands/cultures on the search.  However, although this is a great idea and the writing is solid, the way CIRCLE OF SEVEN is explained is much too generic.  There needs to be more intimate detail so that we can a good mental image of what the book is going to be like and interest us in requesting pages and reading more!

Happy Pub Day!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Yay!  Today is the pub day for Kristin Bartley Lenz's amaaazing YA debut, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO!  It tells the story of teenage competitive climber Cara Jenkins and what happens after her parents and their best friend experience tragedy on an Ecuadorian mountaintop and Cara is sent to her grandparents in Detroit while her parents pick up the pieces.  I just love this book and am so excited about it because it won the 2015 Helen Sheehan Prize and has been getting some great reviews in Publishers WeeklyKirkus and SLJ, along with being a Junior Library Guild Selection for Fall 2016.  So without further ado, here is Kristin's pub day interview!



For everyone who doesn't know, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to start writing.

I’ve been an avid reader and writer since childhood, but somewhere in my teen and college years I lost confidence in my writing. I pursued a career in psychology and social work instead, and while this was a detour on my writing path, it greatly expanded my worldview. I returned to writing years later when I realized I was nearly the only social worker in existence who enjoyed paperwork! The favorite part of my work day was when I could hunker down in my office and write; essentially I was writing stories in the form of assessment reports, treatment plans, and progress notes. And I began to remember my dream of being a writer. Finally, I had something to say, inspired by the resilience of the children and teens and families that I worked with.

What was your inspiration for writing this book? 

When my husband and I moved from Michigan to Georgia and then California, we became rock-climbing weekend warriors, and we followed the adventures of well-known mountaineers. One by one, these climbers died on epic accents or due to tragic accidents, leaving behind spouses and children. I began to wonder what it would be like to be the child of a professional mountaineer. How would her upbringing be different? And what if both of her parents were extreme mountaineers, not just one. How would this shape her world?

Kirkus said of the main character, "Cara is an appealing, engaging narrator. Surrounded by a well-rounded cast, Cara's journey toward a peaceful, fulfilling life is almost perfectly depicted. A compelling, unusual coming-of-age story."  How did you develop Cara as a character...was she based on anyone you knew?

Cara wasn’t based on anyone I knew, but I was able to incorporate some of my own rock climbing experience. In the climbing world, there’s a bit of a divide between traditionalists who climb outside on real rock and new climbers who have only known climbing in a gym. I imagined Cara straddling these two worlds and the conflicts this would create for her. I was also writing her story not long after I made my own move from California to Detroit. The reasons for my move were very different than Cara’s, but I’m sure I expressed some of my own emotions through her.

What was your road to publication like?

Very, very long! The first draft of this story was written ten years ago. It was rejected, revised, shelved, and rewritten repeatedly until it finally connected with an editor who shared my vision.

What part of the publication process has been the most interesting? What part has been the hardest or the most surprising?

The editing process was the most interesting, hardest, and surprising all at the same time. I grew so much as a writer from working with my editor, Jotham Burello. The work was intensive for 3-4 months, and he pushed me to dig deeper to more fully develop each of my characters and show emotions. He even encouraged me to do journaling exercises that I had usually avoided on my own.

I was hesitant to go with a small press because NY had been my goal for so many years, but Elephant Rock Books had a great record of publishing well-reviewed and award- winning books. They nurtured my novel through every stage from editing to design to marketing and maintained weekly communication with me throughout the entire process. My book needs to stand on its own, but they set the stage for a successful launch. I’d do it all over again with my next novel, but ERB will be looking for their next Sheehan Prize winner in 2017.

What is some exciting promotion you've done for the book?  Anything upcoming we should be keeping our eyes or ears out for?

It’s been wonderful to connect with so many enthusiastic readers/bloggers through the blog tour my publisher organized, and it was an honor when my book was chosen as a Fall 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection. But most exciting (and nerve-wracking) was the invitation to present on a panel at the upcoming ALAN/NCTE (http://www.alan-ya.org/) conference in Atlanta in November. I had a fangirl freak out moment when I saw the line-up of YA authors that I admire: A.S. King, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sara Zarr, Matt de la Pena… and then me! I’ll be the newbie debut author on a panel about death and grieving in young adult literature with Tim Federle, Adam Silvera, and Len Vlahos. Eeep!

Anything that new authors can learn from your experiences?

My publishing journey has been full of detours. Some of them were disappointing and felt like huge setbacks at the time, but I was ultimately diverted onto some wonderfully surprising paths. The keys for me have been persistence, adjusting course as needed (sometimes this simply means revising your manuscript, again), and immersing myself in a supportive network of writers where we grow and contribute to each other’s success.

Now fun question!  If these books were turned in to a movie who would you cast to play the main characters?

I’m so lame – I can’t seem to keep up with TV or movies anymore! I don’t know how people do it. When I have free time, I’d rather linger over dinner with my family/friends, take a walk with my puppy, and read a book from my ever-growing pile. 

Happy Pub Day!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hi everyone!  I lied about this week being the query critique winner post, because tomorrow is the publication day for Shana Figueroa's VENGEANCE!!  Shana was my first romance deal ever, and I just love her awesome main character: kick-ass, Veronica Mars-esque Valentine Shepherd, who has a mind-boggling skill that gives her an edge as a PI, but draws her into an underground, occult world full of danger after her fiance is murdered.  Enjoy Shana's pub day interview and be sure to buy a copy of the book! (The monthly query critique is going to get a bit scrambled because there is another pub day interview next week--yay!--so the winner for the last contest will posted the week of the 19th.)




For everyone who doesn't know, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to start writing.

Throughout my entire life, I've always enjoyed writing and making up stories.One of my favorite things to do is come up with alternate story lines for movies and TV shows - especially the ones that suck and could really use some help (I'm looking at YOU, final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

I didn't start writing seriously until about five years ago. After suffering some painful setbacks in my primary career, it occurred to me that I really needed a Career Plan B. So after a slow and steady build-up, I'm finally going pro! 

You have such an interesting background working in the Air Force!  How did writing and editing the book jive with your duties as an aerospace engineer?  And can we expect to see any Air Force romances from you in the future?

Due to the long hours I keep at my primary job, I have to do almost all of my writing in the evenings, after I put my kids to bed. For me, the key to finishing a manuscript on time is to work on it a little at a time every day, with few exceptions. My usual quota is 300 words a day. I also have my husband to thank, since he tackles most of the child-rearing duties while I go to work and then come home and write. He hardly ever complains!

As for Air Force romances...I do plan to write a novel set in the world of the Air Force, but it will be a modern day take on Anna Karenina, so...not exactly a romance, if you know how that story goes. But still a good book! That'll be my Pulitzer Prize winner, I'm pretty sure!

What was your inspiration for writing this book?  What about the main character?

Before VENGEANCE, I wrote and self-published a romantic comedy novel called SPICE OF LOVE, about a woman who goes on a reality dating show and ends up falling in love with the head producer while wacky hijinks ensue (available now on Amazon!). In that book, there are two (fairly tame) sex scenes. One day I told my friend how the parts of the book I enjoyed writing the most were the sexxy times, and how I should write a whole book of mostly sex scenes. So we started spit-balling ideas about what kinds of situations would put a heroine in the position of having lots of sex for some plausible reason that didn't involve BDSM, sex work, or sex addiction. Then it came to me - WHAT IF when you had sex, instead of having an orgasm, you saw the future? That would be pretty cool, right? Maybe??

At first it seemed like a dumb concept, but then it occurred to me - if you saw the future at climax instead of the big O...that would suck. You'd have problems maintaining intimate relationships, no one would believe you if you told them, and those who did could take advantage of you, you might grow to hate sex or think of it as a tool rather than an act of intimacy, and you'd feel alone and like a freak. Your life would probably be kind of a mess...Now THAT'S a story!

Keeping all of the above in mind, I envisioned my heroine, Valentine Shepherd, as tough but also vulnerable Private Investigator, someone who's come to uneasy terms with her strange ability through a mixture of steeliness and sass. In a nutshell, Val is very much like a tougher, sexier version of Veronica Mars.

What was your road to publication like?

My road to publication was probably smoother and shorter than average, only because I treated my writing as a second job rather than a hobby. Writing a book worth publishing was the part that took the longest. I read a lot of how-to books to hone my craft, attended monthly writer's group meetings to get other people's opinions as well as get a feel for other styles, and went to writing conferences and workshops not only for writing advice but for info on the business and marketing aspect of the craft. When I thought I was ready, I shifted into business mode, steeled my heart for an onslaught of rejection, and started the agent search. After I found an agent (the best one - Carrie! Woo!), the rest of Publication Road went pretty smoothly!

In the end, the prep I did before I found an agent - understanding my genre, recognizing which of my story ideas had the most economic potential, writing a book worth publishing based on solid storytelling physics and word-smithing, establishing an online presence,  and carefully crafting my pitch (query letter, synopsis, etc.) - was the key to success.

What part of the publication process has been the most interesting/fun? What part has been the hardest?

Editing was the most interesting part. Everyone thinks they've written a close-to-perfect manuscript the first time around. To have that bubble burst with editorial comments - ex: "This part is confusing" or "This character is inconsistent" or even "???" - that you realize make complete sense even though you hadn't noticed those flaws before is enlightening.

Coming up with alternate titles was the most fun. My original title for VENGEANCE was RED RAVEN, which makes sense if you read the book. However, my editor pointed out that a romance with an animal in the title could lead people to believe it was were-shifter erotica; we didn't want some poor reader to drop their hard-earned cash on the novel thinking they'd get hot shapeshifting bird sex, then feel cheated when those sexxy times failed to happen. No one wants that! So here were my suggestions:

SHE SEES IT, COMING
COITALLY CLAIRVOIANT
SEER-ING HOT LOVE
PENETRATING THE FUTURE
FUTURE FUCKER
DUDE, WHERE'S MY MAGICAL VAGINA?

...Okay, I'm slightly juvenile.

Finding an agent was the hardest. No one wants to be rejected over and over and over...and over again. But that's what it takes if you're serious about breaking into the business.

What is some fun promotion you've done for the book?  Anything upcoming we should be keeping our eyes or ears out for?

Unfortunately, being in the military means I don't have a lot of time to do promotions much more involved than telling all my friends about it. Writing this blog review was fun!  Book Enthusiast Promotions is doing the release day blitz starting tomorrow, which should be a lot of fun!

Tell us a little bit about Book 2!

Each book in the Valentine Shepherd series follows the same characters; specifically, the series as a whole tells the story of the evolution of Max (the hero) and Val's relationship. Book 2 (RETRIBUTION)  picks up several months after the conclusion of the events in Book 1. Without spoiling any major plot points from VENGEANCE, both Max and Val are...not in good places, to say the least. They're struggling to readapt to life after their worlds were turned upside down at the conclusion of VENGEANCE. During a very strange encounter with an old nemesis, Val has a vision of a woman being murdered - the same woman who happens to be the missing daughter of a client. To save the daughter's life, Val must jump back into the dark underworld of Seattle's richest and most depraved elite, but the only way inside is through her one rich "friend" - Max. Will he overlook their tumultuous history and help her, or will that same history finally force them to confront their lingering feelings for each other that won't die...even if it literally kills them?

Now fun question!  If these books were turned in to a movie (or movies ::salivates::) who would you cast to play the main characters? 

Val is tough-as-nails, yet she looks deceptively delicate. She's impulsive and isn't afraid to let her raw feelings show and guide her actions - sometimes for the worse. She's very physical, just as willing to beat answers out of people as much as sweet-talk (...well, mostly lie) to them. Yet she's also vulnerable, often overcome with the need to right all the world's injustices and crushed when she fails. ...I'd cast Tatiana Maslany! (Natalie Dormer would be a close second choice)

Max is much more vulnerable, despite a cool and controlled exterior. He's dark, brooding, empathic, extremely intelligent, often depressed, and somewhat neurotic. He's rich and handsome, but doesn't care much about either. Like Val, he also uses snark and sarcasm to navigate a painful world. ...I'd cast Tom Hiddleston!

Happy Pub Day!

Monday, August 29, 2016

This Wednesday is the pub day for Dean A. Haycock's new book, CHARACTERS ON THE COUCH: EXPLORING PSYCHOLOGY THROUGH LITERATURE AND FILM!  I'm so excited to introduce you all to the book with Dean's interview below...enjoy and be sure to pick up a copy of the book on the 31st!



For everyone who doesn't know, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to start writing.

I'm a science and medical writer who believes the subjects he writes about are much more interesting than he is. My goal is to make interesting scientific material easier to understand without oversimplifying or misrepresenting it. When I graduated from college, I wrote for two weeks straight. When I evaluated what I'd written, I found only one good paragraph. I put aside the idea of making a living writing and took other jobs, like many writers have. In my case, I was an animal care technician, a laboratory technician, a graduate student/teaching assistant, a post-doctoral fellow and a research scientist. But I kept writing. When a pharmaceutical company I worked for wanted me to move out of state to a city and away from my country home, I choose to quit and finally try writing full time once again.

What lead to the concept of this book?

In my previous book, Murderous Minds, I explored the criminal psychopathic mind and brain. I explained how scientists are investigating people who lack empathy, emotional depth and a conscience. I explained how and what we know about the biological origins of this fascinating type of person. All of the subjects discussed in that book are real, both the scientists and the psychopathic prisoners they studied. During my research, I became interested in how psychopathy was portrayed, both accurately and inaccurately, in novels and in movies. That was the start of my next book, Characters on the Couch, Exploring Psychology Through Literature and Film. I expanded the subject material to include many different types of mental disorders as well as characters with positive psychological traits and strengths.

What was it like writing and researching this book?  Did you come upon anything unexpected that surprised you?

I was surprised to learn how often medical schools, as well as psychiatric and psychological training programs, use fictional characters to help train future psychiatrists and psychologists, to teach them about the features of mental disorders. For example, scholarly journal articles discuss the features of mental disorders in Star Wars characters and several have explored the evolution of psychopathic characters in the history of film. It was a confirmation that the topics in Characters on the Cough were worth writing about.
My second surprise was due to my naivete. I underestimated how much work it would be to discuss 101 different literary and film characters and their psychological traits or illnesses. It was much harder than I thought it would be. I'm sure my blood pressure went up as my final deadline approached but I am very happy with the final result.
This was offset by how much fun it was to read so many novels, novellas, short stories and poems, and to watch so many movies, while researching the book.
How was working on this book different from your previous book, MURDEROUS MINDS?
Although I seriously considered majoring in American literature in college, I ended up studying biology and then neuroscience. For most of my writing career, I have read nonfiction books. Taking the time to get back to reading lots of fiction for this book was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the last year and a half.

What do you hope readers take away from CHARACTERS ON THE COUCH?

Besides hoping the book increases readers' enjoyment and understanding of the fictional characters they encounter, I hope it encourages them to think more about the psychology behind the behavior of both fictional and real people. Anything we can do to increase understanding of mental health will hopefully help reduce prejudice against mental illness.

Anything that other nonfiction writers can learn from your experiences?

It’s obvious but always worth saying: as much as you possibly can, write about topics that fascinate you. And carefully evaluate the time and effort a new project will require.
What's a fun fact about yourself?

I was once stopped on a back road in Bulgaria by two communist soldiers carrying machine guns while somewhere nearby, a public address system blared at maximum volume Tom Jones singing "Daughter of Darkness." As I listened to the music and looked at the machine guns, I was simultaneously struck by the knowledge of what the automatic weapons could do to me and the surreal soundtrack playing during the interrogation.

Query Critique

Monday, August 22, 2016

In the all the excitement of deals, new clients, and cats, I completely forgot about this month's query critique!  Sorry!!!  Here it is now, and because I'm posting a week late, results will be posted in two weeks instead of three!  For everyone who enters (and those who don't) spread the word so that even if you don't submit a query, you encourage others to read and comment.  Thanks :)




If you're not familiar with how to enter, take a look at my previous post to read the rules.  Good luck!  And don't forget to post any questions you want me to answer in the comments section with the hashtag #IHAVEAQUESTION!

Cats & Deals

Monday, August 15, 2016

I should start off this blog by first saying that I am over the moon about a new deal that I hinted at last week.  Alana Delacroix's Shifting Love paranormal romance trilogy is going to be published at Kensingston Lyrical and I'm sooooo psyched!!!!  It's an amazing book that reads like a thriller, with an investigative journalist who has retired from the reporting life after a vicious attack and now works at a PR firm, where a new client inadvertently brings her back into contact with the criminal who attacked her...she just happens to be a half shifter and her client is the sexy shifter king of North America.  Go, Alana!!

I also signed the wonderful Rie Neal, whose MG book, THE FIRST MARTIAN, is about the first boy born on the Mars Research Dome and what happens when a reality TV show crew and a shuttle filled with new inhabitants for the dome--including a girl his age--arrive on the planet.

And in other news...cats!!!  I am the proud momma of two adorable little kittens, Ivan and Nori, who are Egyptian Mau mixes.  They are so cute!  Ivan is very exuberant and a little nuts and Nori is a bit of a scaredy cat who loves finding small cuddly spaces.  The rest of this post is just going to be cat pictures so you can all start your week off with lovable fluffiness   Also, we made them an awesome cat tent that we found from a DIY post online if anyone wants to make their tiny pet a new home!




 
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