Author Interview: Kara McDowell

Pen Friends~ today’s interview is special because I was along side YA debut author Kara Jean McDowell as a fellow 2016 PitchWars mentee, witnessed her get an agent, and then a book deal, and now her book, Just For Clicks, will come out in February!

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SP: Hi Kara! Thanks for joining us. Before we dive into all the book stuff, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

KM: Hello! Thanks for having me! My name is Kara McDowell. I live with my husband and three young kids in Arizona. When I’m not writing or reading, I like to boat, bake, go on road trips, and watch Netflix.

SP: Your debut, Just for Clicks, will come out Feb 2019. First, we LOVE your incredibly adorable, genius, and timely idea!

Here is a blurb: Continue reading

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The Querying Show, Episode 3. Gently Rip Apart His Query, Please.

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Welcome to The Querying Show’s Third Episode!

For the next six months you will witness every juicy (or completely stagnant) detail of our SP Staff Member’s querying life in the SLUSH PILE!

(Check out our rules and reasons in our intro post here!)

Will CR’s/Write_Or_Left achieve AGENT success? Or will it result with a querying and MS reboot? Dying to know? Follow us to see how Write_Or_Left ‘s querying journey will end up!

***Please forgive our late post. Autumn colds took over last week! 

SO…..Today is the 3rd week of CR’s journey. Today we will do something a bit different. We will SHOW YOU CR’S QUERY and ask YOU for feedback!

But first, let’s check in our with brave querying fellow and see how things are progressing. (Click below for Episode 1 & 2.)

SP: Ciao CR/Write_Or_Left. As always, lets start with the STATS. How many more queries have you sent out? 

Any rejections?

Requests?

CR/Write_Or_Left:  Just one rejection, and no requests. The rejection was a good ol’ copy-paste (the email itself said as much).

SP: Be honest, are you:

A) Twitter stalking the agents you queried?

B) Checking your inbox regularly?

C) Totally Chill and got this?

D) Other exciting or emotional thoughts? (Do tell.)

E) All of the above?

CR/Write_Or_Left : I check my inbox pretty regularly, and I research agents before querying. But for the most part, I’m surprisingly calm about everything. I think it’s mostly because I really have no expectations except that I will get rejected. Therefore no rejection is all that painful, and all positive feedback is a welcome surprise! I think that’s given me a thicker skin for this process.

I’m also working on an additional project that I’m pretty excited about, so if this whole thing flops, I’ll have learned invaluable lessons that will help me in that project!

SP: OK, so for Today’s show, we wanted AUDIENCE feedback on CR’s Query. Your advice just may help him get a request!

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Our questions:

What do you like about it?

What don’t you like about it?

Would you request it?

What can be improved?

Any other helpful tips?

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Rules: Add your thoughts in the comments below. NO slamming! Please be kind while critiquing–all critiques must be helpful.

 

QUERY:

Dear “Awesome Agent,”

(Insert Personal Greeting and Necessary Genre, word count, Comp title info–or something of the sort! FYI, this is MG fantasy.)

12-year-old outlier Evander Ross knows there’s something special about the book his Grandpa tried to destroy. But he never would have guessed it would almost get him killed. Three times. 

Despite his mother and grandfather’s efforts to shield the truth, Evander accidentally discovers traces of a strange world in one of his family’s many “forbidden” zones in the city. The Gifted World is everything Evan has dreamed of—a place full of strange creatures and new abilities, but also great danger. Within it, Evan nearly dies at the hand of Katerina, one of the Gifted World’s most wanted criminals; he finds Lumen’s Middle-High—a school that finally understands him; and he’s taken by authorities who tell Evan that he will never be accepted in the Gifted World—that his family was banished long ago.

Evan is now eager not only to discover his family’s true past but also to find his way back and prove the Marshals are wrong about him. So when Evander learns that Katerina plans to attack Lumen’s Mid-High, he takes his chance. But no one believes him. Now he might be the only one that can stop her threat. And if he doesn’t, Lumen’s and everyone in it might be completely destroyed.

(End with BIO and other useful info like social media and contact info)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

CR

SP: Our Querying Tip of the Week:

WHILE you are querying KEEP writing on either your WIP or a new project; Get more readers to review your work–have an open mind; Get involved with other writers and read their work too! And DON’T stress it! All good things take time. 

Schedule Update:

Since we have posted late, we will NOT post a show this Friday.

Also, during November and December, we will only have 2 Querying shows per month due to extra holiday busyness and school exams! Thanks for understanding! *If something exciting does occur, we will be sure to let you know!

Nova and CR/Write_Or_Left  signing off! Have a GREAT weekend!!!

Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (first of a trilogy)

Author: Jenny Han

Blurb: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

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Review:  To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was on my TBR list for quite a while. Unfortunately—or fortunately?—the movie adaptation came out on Netflix and I couldn’t resist all the gushing reviews, so I—GASP!—watched the movie first. Let’s just say the book immediately jumped the queue on my reading list and was just as enjoyable as the flick. You’ll cheer Lara Jean on from start to finish, swoon over Peter Kavinsky, and crave a bite of every cookie Lara Jean bakes. The story is charming and will give you all the warm and fuzzies as it takes you back to your first crush and first love.

Netflix's "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" Los Angeles Special Screening

Characters/Voice: What’s not to like about Lara Jean? She is such a compelling, likeable, and relatable narrator…someone you’d want to be friends with. You’ll adore the two other Song girls—Margot and Kitty—too. Even as secondary characters, they shine with their own backstories, motivations, and insecurities. Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty’s sisterly love will have you wanting to be one of the Song girls as well. And then there’s Peter. And Josh. You’ll be fans of them, too.

Pacing: This is one of those books you can easily settle into a comfy spot and finish in one or two sittings. You’ll keep flipping the pages to find out what happens with Lara Jean and her letters next. 

Plot: The plot is wonderfully executed. The idea of writing secret love letters that are suddenly mailed is irresistible, especially as the consequences ensue and Lara Jean has to juggle all the new complications in her life. The story ends at a point where you’re satisfied, but also giddy with the knowledge that there’s more left to the story—two books, in fact!

Setting: Of all the places described, you’ll want to curl up on the couch in the Covey household and let the scent of freshly baked cookies wash over you as you witness the hilarity, drama, and heartache the Song girls experience together.
Themes: This story deals with relatable themes like the value of family, friendships, and telling the truth even when it’s difficult.

Now onto books 2 and 3: P.S. I Still Love you and Always and Forever, Lara Jean!

Jessica Jade

Jessica, signing off.

 

Book Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

StarfishTitle: Starfish (standalone)

Author:Akemi Dawn Bowman

Blurb: Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin. Continue reading

How to Have a Fantastically Bookish Holiday

How to Have a Bookish ChristmasPhoto: Joanna Kosinska

It seems like more and more, the holiday season is just jam-packed with wall-to-wall everything, and that can be both exciting and utterly exhausting. It starts in October and doesn’t really let up until the beginning of January.

And with everything that’s going on during the holidays, how on earth are we supposed to tackle our amazing TBR piles of glorious books, much less spend time with those novels we’ve been writing?

I’ll tell you what, Pen Friends, I’m staring at an absolutely insane schedule this week, between the day job, a very tight freelance deadline, rehearsals for a play, and getting ready for Christmas (say what?! Christmas is in less than a week? How did that happen?), and I’m sad to say there will be little to no time for books this week. So many tears.

But fear not!

If any of you are in a similar space with too much to do and not enough time for holiday cheer, I have a suggestion! Make time for it. I know, I know, I’m crying just thinking about how I can cram another thing into my schedule, but hear me out. I’m going to try to listen to myself, as well.

True bookworms find clever ways to do bookish things (and this can apply to anything you care about, even if you’re *gasp!* not much of a reader). Sneak the important stuff into the gaps of your day.

Even if you’re just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of activity swirling around you, you can–and should–take a few minutes to just sit and be quiet. Make a list of the good things that have happened this year while brushing your teeth. Plot out your antagonist’s troubled backstory while cleaning your house for the ugly sweater soirée you’re hosting. Sneak in another chapter during your lunch break.

Want to make a holiday gathering fantastically bookish?

Here’s my idea for making the season bright and nerdy. Let’s take a page out of my favorite Icelandic Christmas tradition: every year, most Icelanders get at least one new book as a Christmas gift. Since they traditionally open gifts on Christmas Eve, once everyone receives said new book, they then all spend time quietly reading together.

How wonderful is that? It might not be the most spirited way to start a holiday party, but it sure sounds like a great way to wrap one up. If you’re having a gathering, invite your friends/family to bring a book they love, wrapped up all pretty. Then, let everyone open one, and voila! New books for all! You can even trade around until everyone has one they’re excited about. Finish the night with some reading time. (Have a bunch of extroverts in your group? Stage dramatic readings of your new books for added excitement!)

Wherever you find yourself this holiday season,

I hope you have a chance to slow down for a bit and experience some of the joy that this season can bring. And of course, may you be filled to the brim with great stories of all kinds.

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Dana, signing off to go find some hot cocoa.

YA Author Interview: Caitlin Sangster

Pen Friends~ It’s my honor to welcome YA Author Caitlin Sangster to the Spinning Pen. This amazing lady shares something very special with me– a love for travel and Asia! Which kind of inspired her debut, Last Star Burning– a thrilling dystopian, fantasy, fairytale, blend of awesome. Today she will share all kinds of gems with us: her writing journey, world building tips, and more!

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SP: Hi Caitlin! Thanks so much for joining us! First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

CS: Hi! I’m so glad to be here! I’ve been writing on and off since I was a kid, but started seriously writing about five years ago. I’ve lived in California, China, Taiwan, Montana, and, most recently Utah. In college, I did a BA in Asian Studies with an emphasis in China (and am, consequently, a huge Chinese history and politics nerd). I love to run and wish I were a ballroom dancer. Lost but very much not least, I have four delightfully disruptive children ages seven and under. Continue reading

Be a Book Hero

Pen Friends ~ We have an amazing guest with us today with an amazing topic to share. Megan LaCroix is a YA author, major book & author advocate, #BookRave creator, #PitchWars Mentee, blogger extraordinaire, and an explosion of inspiration and wisdom!

In her writerly way, Megan La Croix is going to share how to hero your favorite books and support authors you know! (Can all the authors out there say, Amen?)

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Be a Book Hero: Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors

If you read a book and you can’t stop thinking about it, consider going the extra mile to spread the word. Authors depend on word of mouth as it creates the best buzz, and this is where you can help. Here are seven ways to support authors—whether that person is a close friend, a CP, or someone you just discovered and fell in love with—so they can keep on publishing those words you crave! Continue reading

Book Review: Before Beauty

BEFORE BEAUTY

Title: Before Beauty (First Book in the Trilogy)

Author: Brittany Fichter

Blurb: Prince Everard’s father spent the boy’s youth forging the prince into a warrior. Upon the king’s death, however, Everard realizes he’s lost himself somewhere along the way, and in his pain, makes a decision that brings a dark curse upon both him and the great Fortress that has so long guarded the people of Destin. Continue reading

Book Blog Tour & Author Interview: Seize Today by Pintip Dunn

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Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours

SEIZE TODAY blurb

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Dresden is a precognitive. Since different versions of people’s futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn’t have to believe in human decency. She can see the way for everyone to be their best self-if only they would make the right decisions. No one is more conflicted than her mother, and Olivia can only watch as Chairwoman Dresden chooses the dark, destructive course every time. Yet Olivia remains fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be. Continue reading

Feature Friday: Alexa Donne of Author Mentor Match

Pen friends, if you’ve spent much time around here, you know how much we love the writing community! One of our favorite ways of learning and growing within that community is by participating in contests and mentoring opportunities, and today we are thrilled to chat with one of the founders of Author Mentor Match, the lovely YA author Alexa Donne!

*The current round of submissions for AMM is open now through October 24th, so if you’ve been looking for a mentor, now is the perfect chance to apply!

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SP: Welcome, Alexa! We’re so excited to have you join us. Can you please tell us a little about who you are and what you write?

Hi! Thank you so much for having me! I am Alexa Donne, a YA science fiction & fantasy writer whose debut novel, BRIGHTLY BURNING, will be coming out from HMH Teen on May 1, 2018. It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre, set in space.  Continue reading