Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


The winner of WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER by Shannon Wiersbitzky is...

...Ann Finkelstein!

Congrats, Ann. While I've got you in the limelight, thank you for being such a loyal blog reader. Pretty sure you've been hanging around since 2009!  

If you didn't receive my e-mail, please contact me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Everyone else, thank you for stopping by. Don't forget to enter our other giveaways linked at the top of the blog. Happy reading!


Today I’m thrilled to have blogger friend and follower Cherie Reich here to share about her new YA fantasy REBORN that was released on May 23, 2014. This sounds like a fantastic epic fantasy that’s on my summer TBR list. I’d planned to read it before Cherie’s interview but have gotten really behind in my reading.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

To save a kingdom, a prophetess must challenge Fate.

On the day of Yssa’s death and rebirth, the god Apenth chose her as the Phoenix Prophetess.

Sea serpents and gods endanger the young prophetess’s journey and sour the omens. Yssa is cursed instead of blessed, and her duties at the Temple of Apenth prove it. She spends her days reading dusty scrolls, which does nothing to help her forget Tym, the boy back home. But the annoying yet gorgeous ferryman’s son Liam proves to be a distraction she can’t predict, even though he rarely leaves her alone for two sand grains.

Her boring temple life screeches to a halt when visions of her parents’ murders consume her. Yssa races across an ocean to stop the future. If she can’t change Fate, she’ll refuse to be the Phoenix Prophetess any longer. Fate, however, has other plans for her and the kingdom.

Yssa must either accept her destiny or fight to change Fate.

Hi Cherie! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Although I once wanted to be an actress and opera singer, I found my real passion for books: writing and reading them. I graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in Classical Antiquities (Ancient Greeks/Romans) with a minor in the Ancient Near East. I’m a speculative fiction writer and library assistant living in Virginia. I have three adorable kitty furbabies and spend most of my time reading, writing, and watching TV (I’m still lamenting that Psych was canceled). In 1999, I started roleplaying online and branched into fanfiction. When I was hired at my library assistant job in December 2008, I found myself with a lot of free time, so in 2009, I started writing with publication in mind and have never looked back.

2. I’d love to have a job as a librarian assistant. Where did you get the idea for REBORN?

While I was roleplaying in the fantastical world of Harry Potter, I had created a character named Clarissa Black. She was Sirius Black’s niece by his half-brother John. Clarissa had an interesting origin story. She was stillborn, but her father, with Apollo’s help, brought her back to life. From that moment on, she had the gift of prophecy. From Clarissa’s origin story, I created Yssa, the main character for Reborn. Although the two characters diverged widely from each other, I have my Harry Potter roleplaying experience to thank for the idea of my debut novel.

3. What a fun way to come up with the story idea. World building is so important in fantasies. Share a bit about the world building in REBORN and your tips for the rest of us on world building.

As soon as I knew the premise of Yssa’s story, I had to figure out the world. I instantly went to my college studies and decided I wanted a world loosely based off Ancient Rome, but with Royals instead of Senators. I pulled from different mythologies to help fill in the gods and goddesses as well as the creatures in Reborn. And I enjoyed expanding upon Amora (backwards for “a Roma” or “to Rome”) to create the world Yssa lives in.

As for tips, not all world building has to be created at the beginning. I found new things about the world as I wrote and edited. I even discovered things in the final edit and first proofread to add. I suggest keeping a list of places, people, language, etc. And the biggest tip I learned while writing Reborn is to figure out distances as I go. When I went to draw a map of the Kingdom of Amora, I learned I had some dates wrong based on the distances. People couldn’t be in a place, if I didn’t change things. It involved a lot of math to get back on track. Next time I create a fantasy world, I’ll be figuring up distances as I go.

4. That’s great advice to keep track of everything. It’s so easy to forget if you don’t. And I never thought to track distances. Plotting can be challenging to keep track of in high fantasies. And I know you have sequels planned in this series. What was your plotting process like for REBORN and what advice do you have on plotting a series out?

As my first novel, Reborn was written differently than my other works. I knew various scenes throughout the story before I started writing, but when I sat down to write, I would write the chapter I was on and then use a few days to figure out the next chapter, if I didn’t know it. When I rewrote Reborn, I wrote out an outline with each basic plot of each scene/chapter. I’ve done the same for Reforged, Book Two, and Redestined, Book Three. A lot about Yssa’s story hit me all at one time. I knew the beginning and end of all three books before I started writing Reborn as well as various scenes throughout. I just needed to know the plot in between those scenes. Even if you aren’t a plotter, I suggest making some note of what each chapter/scene is about. It’ll be helpful when it comes to revising and writing the rest of the series.

5. Lucky you to know the whole story when you started reborn. I have to know the general story start and end points too. Tell us a bit about Yssa, the main character of REBORN. Is there any of you in her?

Yssa is god-chosen as the Phoenix Prophetess. She’s grown up knowing who she is, but that doesn’t
change how she wants to be normal, just like everyone else. She’s sometimes naïve, self-centered, and wishy-washy, but she can be strong and caring. She genuinely does want to change people’s terrible Fates, even though she often fails. Like Yssa, I’m a little too trusting. I’ve gotten less trusting as I get older, but when I was her age, I trusted way too much. I also like to think I’m a bit psychic. Strange things I just seem to know or have foreseen, including general times when/how a person would die to foreseeing what a professor was dressed like and the first words out of his mouth before it happened. Freaky stuff!

6. How cool you’re a bit psychic. I know you started your own publishing company Surrounded by Books Publishing. What made you decide to start your own press and what was the process like? Do you recommend this for self-published authors?

When I decided to self-publish, I had to decide whether or not I wanted to create a company, so to speak, or just use my name as the “publisher.” I wanted to treat my writing as professional as possible, so for me, creating a company was a step in the right direction. So far I haven’t done anything official for the company, like setting it up as a LLC, which I plan to do once I start making more money from it, but I have created a website for the company. And if I ever had the funds, I would like to expand SBB Publishing beyond myself because I do enjoy the creation of a book, particularly cover art and formatting. As for recommending this to self-published authors or not, I don’t think creating your own company is necessary. Whether you give it a fancy name or just publish under your own name, you are the publisher. If a different name helps you make that distinction, then so be it.

7. How are you planning to market REBORN and will it be different from the marketing of your other books you’ve published? If so, why?

With Reborn, it’s all about getting the word out. In May 2013, I announced I would be publishing Reborn in a year. At that time, I created a form for people to sign up for the cover reveal, to review the book, and the blog tour. In January, I had the cover reveal and got a great response to the cover. I made sure Reborn was up on Goodreads early, so people could add it. In March, I sent out the eARCs to reviewers. This month, I published Reborn two weeks early, so I could make sure everything looked right and I would have purchase links for the blog tour. About the blog tour, I have 30+ hosts over a period of a month (May 23 – June 23). Early reviewers are getting their reviews up on Goodreads/Amazon/etc. I’m looking into some cheap advertising sites as well as trying to find other reviewers. Also, I’m publishing a chapter every first and third Wednesday of Reborn on Wattpad, so people can read for free to decide if Reborn is for them. By December 2015, the entire book should be up there, and I hope to have all the books except book three published by then.

For the other books in the series, I don’t plan to do such an extensive push to spread the word. I’ll likely contact people who have reviewed and enjoyed Reborn to see if they want to read and review the next book. I plan to have a free novella prequel set in The Fate Challenges’ world available by the end of this year. I’ll also do a smaller tour or just a promo blast when other books are released.

8. You’re so organized. I’ll have to talk to you about my marketing plans if I ever get published. You also work as an assistant librarian. What’s the best way for authors to connect with librarians and to reach out to librarians across the country when their book is published?

Well, I work at more of an academic library instead of a public/school one, so we don’t really work with authors. But I used to work at a public library, and the best way is to approach the library director and ask to speak about your book or set up a time to speak about it. The worst they can say is “No.” Be presentable. Have some information handy for them. Even offer to donate a book to add to their collection.

I’ll tell you a little secret, though. The best way for an author to get their book into a library is to get readers to request the book. A request from a patron means a library is more likely to purchase the book. Libraries serve their patrons first, after all.

9. Thanks for sharing your secret. What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the first draft of Repledged, a prequel novella set 800 years before Reborn. Then, I’ll start writing Remarked, Book 1.5 of The Fate Challenges and told from Liam’s point of view. As for editing, I will begin editing my epic fantasy short stories from my Kingdom of Foxwick world in June/July in hopes to publish the short story collection People of Foxwick and Their Neighbors later this year.

Thank you so much for having me!

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

Available in Ebook and Print!

Click here to add on Goodreads.

The authors of Untethered Realms and I are giving away over $50 worth of books to one lucky winner. The giveaway is open internationally.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

A self-proclaimed bookworm, Cherie Reich is a speculative fiction writer and library assistant living in Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and her books include the horror collection Nightmare, a space fantasy novella collection titled Gravity, and the fantasy series The Foxwick Chronicles and The Fate Challenges. Reborn is her debut novel. She is Vice President of Valley Writers and a member of the Virginia Writers Club and Untethered Realms. For more information, please visit her website.

Cherie is also offering a print copy of REBORN for US residents or an e-book for International residents for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through June 14th. I’ll announce the winner on June 16th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it 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. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Skylar Dorset and a ARC giveaway of NEVER TRUST A FAIRY, a urban fantasy that sounds really good and that I would have read if so much hadn’t been going on in my personal life lately.

Next Wednesday that week I have a fantastic guest post with follower and debut author Jessie Humphries and her agent Sarah Davies. There's going to be a big giveaway, including a giveaway of KILLING RUBY ROSE, her YA mystery thriller, a t-shirt, a $20 Amazon Gift Card, and a query critique by Sarah Davies.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Bethany Neal and a ARC giveaway of MY LAST KISS, her YA ghost story/mystery. I loved it.

The following Monday I have an ASK THE EXPERT interview with a high school student and will be offering a number of MG and YA books for a giveaway to get you and/or your kids started on your summer reading.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Today I'm doing a guest post at GreenBeanQueenTeen, a fantastic librarian blog I follow, about some of my favorite middle grade novels and what I think they do right.

I hope you'll stop by and say hi.


 Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you're having a great start to your week.


The Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles--a non-profit writing group based in Los Angeles--is holding their annual anthology writing day workshop next weekend and there are still openings. Here's the link to register. Select the Literary Ramble registration option and use the registration code LITERARYRAMBLES and they'll give you a $5.00 credit toward the registration cost.

And the winner of the Amazing Book Giveaway Hop is Carl Scott who chose a $10 Amazon Gift Card.  Congrats!

Today I’m thrilled to have Jacqueline West here to share about her award winning middle grade series The Book of Elsewhere. The fifth and final book in the series, STILL LIFE, releases on June 17th. I read the first book in the series and loved it. I obviously have some catching up to do.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

The fifth and final book in The Books of Elsewhere, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling, fan-favorite series--absolutely not to be missed.

Annabelle McMartin is gone for good, but something worse lurks just out of sight--watching, waiting, preparing to strike. Then a field trip to the local art museum reveals a shock. What Olive discovers will create a chain of events that propel her to discoveries she may not wish to uncover, involving Morton's vanished parents and the very deepest, darkest roots of Aldous McMartin's creepy painted world. In this fifth and final book, Olive must seek the full, complex story of Elsewhere, its magical origins, and its creator, and in so doing, face her own fears and limitations--and possibly the destruction of Elsewhere itself. How far will Olive go to save the people and home she loves? And what will be the final cost?

A must-read fantasy series for fans of Pseudonymous Bosch, Coraline, and Septimus Heap.

Hi Jacqueline! Thanks so much for joining us.

Delighted to be here! Thanks for letting me ramble with you.

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

I took a twisty, secretive, backward route into writing.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with stories—I spent most of my childhood listening to
them, reading them, making them up, acting them out—but I was always quite certain that I couldn’t be a writer myself. In the first place, I wasn’t British. In the second place, I was currently alive. Third, and most importantly, I was sure that writers possessed some sort of esoteric magic…magic that I clearly didn’t have. My favorite kinds of stories were crammed with mystery and adventure and fantastical, impossible things, and I concluded that the authors of these stories must have real lives to match. My own life, except for the stories that I was always reading and making up and acting out, seemed awfully normal and boring by comparison.

In spite of being pretty sure that my efforts were doomed, I wrote my first story when I was eight or nine years old. When I was finished, I hid it under the socks in my dresser drawer. And that’s what I did with everything I wrote for the next nine years. Eventually, there were stacks of scribbly pages stuffed under the clothing in each drawer—because even though I still believed that I was magic-less and underqualified, the compulsion to write kept growing stronger.

When I went off to college, it wasn’t for writing. I earned my degree in vocal performance with a minor in English literature, and between classes and recitals and work, I wrote. I wrote like crazy: Hundreds of poems, dozens of stories, a screenplay, scripts for comic books. I even published a few poems in the school literary magazine. And during my third year of college, I started working on a children’s novel about a girl named Olive and her strange old house.

It wasn’t until I’d started graduate school for voice that I admitted the truth to myself. I didn’t want to spend my life in music. I wanted to spend it in stories—just as I had already been doing for years, with no reward or pressure or incentive except what came from inside of me. I left grad school, earned my English teaching certification, and started teaching high school English, still writing like crazy all the while. I began publishing poems and short stories and articles, and I finished that book about the girl named Olive and her strange old house, and finally I started querying agents. In my second year of teaching, I signed my book contract. The Books of Elsewhere, Volume One: The Shadows came out in June 2010, and that was that.

I don’t hide my first drafts in my dresser drawers anymore. Now I have an entire closet for that.

2. You definitely can say you wrote all your life. I’m sure all your practice helped you you’re your current series. Where did you get your idea for this series?

It began with something I saw through a school bus window when I was eleven years old.

On the way to and from middle school each day, my bus would pass this strange old house. It stood on a corner in a leafy neighborhood, and it was toweringly tall and dauntingly large. It might once have even been beautiful, but now its paint was peeling, and its porch sagged, and the rooms behind its mismatched curtains were always dark.

That was interesting enough to a scary-story-loving girl like me, but better yet, the man who owned the house was an inventor. Strange, wind-powered contraptions made of rusty metal stood on the lawn, moving eerily in the breeze. Mysterious scraps and tools were scattered in the long grass. The garage door often hung open, revealing glimpses of more odd secrets inside.

Eleven-year-old me would look through the bus window at that house, daydreaming about what life would be like inside a place like that. I just loved that contrast: This old, grand, haunted-looking house, with eccentric, scientific, totally out-of-place people living in it. And that’s where Olive and her parents and their house all came from.

3. I just love how you got the idea for your story. And it’s been with you for so long. Share a bit about the plotting that has gone on for writing this five book series. What tips do you have for the rest of us considering writing a series?

I feel like I should start with a disclaimer: When I started this series, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know that I was writing a series until I started on the second volume of The Books of Elsewhere. I was so certain that no one would publish a first book by me, let alone a second, that I hadn’t even considered the possibility of a sequel. (However—and I know this sounds ridiculous—I must have been subconsciously writing the start of a series all along. No major points in the plot of The Shadows had to be altered in order to make it the start of a series, and there were plenty of issues left to resolve: Important characters were stranded in bad situations; enemies were waylaid, but not removed.) So when I embarked on Volume Two: Spellbound, I had a firm foundation to build on, but what I built was built from scratch.

And this is probably the best advice I can give—at least for writers like me, who tend to discover their stories and characters as they write: Don’t over-plan.

So much has to evolve as you write and revise, and rewrite and revise again and again and again. The
more elements of the story you’ve cemented into place with detailed, specific outlines, the more difficult it will feel to have to move them later. As I was working on later volumes of the series, I often felt like I was playing a gigantic game of Jenga. I had to carefully remove pieces that I’d thought belonged at the bottom and put them somewhere new, all while keeping the whole structure balanced.

It was terrifying.

What kept me from getting overwhelmed was thinking of each volume in the series as a separate entity. There is a central problem, mystery, or endeavor at the heart of each volume; something that reaches a conclusion of sorts by the end of the book. But there’s also one overarching mystery that runs through the entire series, with a few clues and twists revealed in each book, and this gives the series its cohesion and its core (I hope!).

There. I know this probably wouldn’t suit every writer, but it’s what has kept me from collapsing into a heap of neuroses.

4. That’s great advice. I love the idea of each book being a separate entity with a central problem weaved in a bit to each. Characters need to grow throughout the series. Tell us a bit about Olive and her growth as a character throughout the series. 

At the beginning of the series, Olive is a shy, rather rootless eleven-year-old girl. She’s moved to new towns and new schools many times, she’s an only child, her family has never owned a house; certainly not one that felt like home to Olive, and she and her parents live in separate mental worlds.

From the very beginning, it was important to me to make Olive feel like a real, “ordinary” (if there is such a thing!), human girl. She’s not secretly a wizard or a vampire or a descendant of a god. She doesn’t even have any extraordinary human talents. Compared to her brilliant parents, she’s pretty lackluster. But the things that make Olive different from her parents—her dreaminess, her creativity, her quiet observation of the world around her—end up leading her toward some huge discoveries.

Also, because she’s very shy and a little awkward and quite used to being alone, Olive has a hard time trusting others. Throughout the books, she gets to know the inhabitants of her new home and her new neighborhood. Some of them manipulate her, but others genuinely need her. Over time, with plenty of mistakes and some big steps backward, Olive learns to trust and to love them, and her relationships with them become the books’ emotional core.

And even though Olive isn’t a magical or mathematical genius, she has all kinds of other good qualities. She’s compassionate and curious and thoughtful, and by the end of the series, she is braver and stronger than she would ever have believed.

5. She sounds so cool. And I can relate to the shy person she started out as. Voice is another important aspect of a story and it can be hard to get the middle grade voice right. How did you get the voice right for Olive and the other characters in your story? Share your advice on getting voice right.

I don’t know if this makes me lucky or unlucky, but I can remember my own childhood in vivid detail. All the fears and pains and joys are still so clear to me, I sometimes worry that I might wake up tomorrow and be right back in my fifth grade body. It’s very easy for me to get into that mindset.
Also, while I was growing up, I often read aloud to my younger brothers. We loved many of the same books: the Bunnicula series, A.A. Milne, Roald Dahl, Calvin and Hobbes. When I started writing The Shadows, I was trying to write something that my brothers would have liked if I’d read it aloud to them back then—something that had the right mix of fear and humor and adventure and oddity.

Most of the children’s authors I know say that they write for their childhood selves. For me, it’s been for myself and my brothers. I think that kind of specificity can really help.

6. Great you have your brothers in mind when you write. Your agent is Danielle Chiotti. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

As you can probably guess from my drawer-hiding tendencies, I’m not a great self-promoter. (Also, when I finished my first book, I was living in a tiny town in rural Wisconsin. There weren’t a lot of networking opportunities on the shores of Lake Winnebago.) I took the more passive route toward publication: I wrote a query letter. I researched agents and agencies, and began sending out my letters, and eventually my sample chapters were picked out of the slush pile by an intern named Chris Richman, who was just getting started at a now-defunct agency called Firebrand Literary.

I was Chris’s very first client. He believed in the book and he wanted to take a chance on me, so we jumped into this adventure together. Within just a few months, there were five publishers interested in the book (which was totally dreamlike and overwhelming and made me even more certain that I was about to wake up back in my fifth-grade body), and we chose the one that felt like the perfect fit: Jessica Garrison at Dial Books for Young Readers.

Before long, Firebrand closed and Chris moved to Upstart Crow Literary, and I went with him. About a year ago, Chris decided to leave the publishing world for PR work, and I signed on with the fabulous Danielle Chiotti, also of Upstart Crow. I’m incredibly lucky to have found the right people in the right places at the right times.

7. Your story gives us all hope that we can be successful living wherever we live. You’re now marketing your fifth book in this series. What have you learned about marketing from promoting your series? What advice do you have for someone getting ready to promote their first book?

Make use of your strengths. Because of my teaching background, I’m comfortable in schools. Actually, I The Books of Elsewhere, teach workshops, answer questions, read aloud… my favorite stuff! And schools are really where my audience can be found. Middle grade readers are less active online; things like Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr tend to skew toward YA and older.
love making school visits—I get to talk about the writing process and

That being said, don’t underestimate the importance of social media, or at least of an online presence. I keep a website with up-to-date event listings, book news, a journal, and contact information, I use Tumblr (mostly for pictures), and I maintain a couple of Facebook pages. That’s one of the great things about social media: There are a lot of platforms to explore, and almost everyone can find something that feels like the right fit.

Finally, make connections. Find the other authors in your area, either online or in reality. Get to know your independent booksellers and local librarians. This can lead to amazing opportunities and events—and it can also provide you with a network of people who understand just what your weird writerly life is like. They’ll answer your questions and share experiences and make you feel much less alone.

8. I wish you could teach me to love the idea of school visits like you. They sound pretty scary to me. What are you working on now?

After its umpteenth revision, my a still-untitled YA novel is back in the hands of my editor, so there will probably (DEFINITELY) be some more work on that before it arrives on bookshelves in a year or two.
In the meantime, I’m getting started on a middle grade fantasy series about a boy named Van, some unusual collections, and one bossy squirrel. After thirteen years of working on The Books of Elsewhere, it’s really exciting to start something brand new.

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


Jacqueline has generously offered one book of the winner’s choice for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through June 7th. I’ll announce the winner on June 9th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it 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. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Tomorrow I’m doing a guest post at GreenBeanQueenTeen, a fantastic librarian blog I follow, about some of my favorite middle grade novels and what I think they do right.

I’ll be off next Monday because it’s Memorial Day but I’ll be back on Wednesday that week with an interview with author and blogger friend Cherie Reich and a giveaway of REBORN, her new YA fantasy that I can’t wait to read.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Skylar Dorset and a ARC giveaway of NEVER TRUST A FAIRY, a urban fantasy that sounds really good and that I would have read if so much hadn’t been going on in my personal life lately.

Wednesday that week I have an interview or guest post with follower and debut author Jessie Humphries about KILLING RUBY ROSE, her YA mystery thriller with a giveaway.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Bethany Neal and a ARC giveaway of MY LAST KISS, her YA ghost story/mystery. I loved it.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you tomorrow!

Shannon Wiersbitzky on Story Seeds and giveaway of WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER

Long time readers will remember Shannon from a previous guest post on focus that included a giveaway of her YA novel The Summer of Hammers and Angels. Shannon has a brand new middle grade out called What Flowers Remember and this time she's here to talk about story seeds and why she found herself writing about Alzheimer's.

The "Seeds" of Stories
By Shannon Wiersbitzky

I’ve thought a lot about memories over the past two years. The idea of what we remember, how we try to help ourselves remember, and whether or not memories can exist in other forms. You see my new middle-grade novel, What Flowers Remember, involves Alzheimer’s.

The disease isn’t one typically associated with children. More than once I’ve gotten the question, Why Alzheimer’s in a children’s book? It may not be a disease that children “get”, but with one in three seniors dying with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it is absolutely a disease that impacts both children and grand children.

I was one of those grand children.

Growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My parents both worked, and my grandparents loved having me, so when school let out in the summer, off I went. I lived with them for three months of the year. My grandparents became both second parents and great friends.

In What Flowers Remember, the main character, Delia, also has a deep connection to someone older. For her, it is a neighbor, a man named Old Red. The two of them share a love of flowers and gardening. When Old Red begins to experience the signs and symptoms of dementia, Delia does everything in her power to save his memories. And she pulls in the entire town to help.

Like my character Delia hopes that Old Red won’t forget her, I too hoped my own grandfather wouldn’t lose me. That somehow, I might be special enough that the disease wouldn’t find me. I was wrong.

When I visit classrooms and talk about storytelling, I discuss the “seeds” of stories. And how the best seeds often come from moments of great joy, or sadness, fear or confusion. The moment I realized my grandfather had forgotten me was the seed that started this novel.

I never set out to write a children’s book about Alzheimer’s. Instead, I tried to find a way to plant that seed. A way to share the truth of my own experience in the context of a fictional town with fictional characters who are busy creating new memories of their own while someone they love is losing his.

How would you set out to try and save someone else's memories? And what would you be willing to sacrifice to do so? Maybe your answers are the same as Delia’s.

Shannon is giving away a paperback copy of her middle grade novel What Flowers Remember to one lucky commenter. The giveaway is US only and will run until Monday May 26th. I'll announce the winner that week. If your e-mail is not on your google profile, please post it with your entry.

Good luck!

From Goodreads

"Most folks probably think gardens only get tended when they're blooming. But most folks would be wrong. According to the almanac, a proper gardener does something every single month. Old Red Clancy was definitely a proper gardener. That's whyI enrolled myself in the Clancy School of Gardening. If I was going to learn about flowers, I wanted to learn from the best."

Delia and Old Red Clancy make quite a pair. He has the know-how and she has the get-up-and-go. When they dream up a seed- and flower-selling business, well, look out, Tucker's Ferry, because here they come. But something is happening to Old Red. And the doctors say he can't be cured. He's forgetting places and names and getting cranky for no reason. As his condition worsens, Delia takes it upon herself to save as many memories as she can. Her mission is to gather Old Red's stories so that no one will forget, and she corrals everybody in town to help her.

WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER is the story of love and loss, of a young girl coming to understand that even when people die, they live on in our minds, our hearts, and our stories.
 Find Shannon at her website, Facebook, and Goodreads


 Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you're having a great day. I may be a bit slow in getting to your blogs today. My Mom has been in town for Mother's Day weekend and she leaves later today.


Rachel Morgan is sharing the covers for her new series, The Trouble Series. And here's some links and other information:

Four new heroines are about to enter the book world in this romance series full of swoon-worthy guys, comical moments, witty dialogue, and hot kisses…
Find the series on Goodreads.
Read the prequel novella, FORGIVEN, for FREE at most online retailers!

And Laura Pauling has a new YA contemporary novel that just released called website.
PROM IMPOSSIBLE. You can find Laura at her

Here's the purchase links: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo ~ iTunes
I have a few winners to announce. 
The winner of THE EIGHTH DAY is Claudia McCarron!
And the winner of ROSE AND THE LOST PRINCESS is Jess Lawson!
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m thrilled to be a part of debut author Tracy Holczer’s blog tour and to have here here to share about her debut MG contemporary book, THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY that released on May 1, 2014. This sounds like a fantastic story I think you’ll like. And it’s gotten fantastic blurbs including:

"Tracy Holczer's story is a lyric about love and loss and not being able to find your future until you've uncovered your past."
— Richard Peck, author of Newbery winning A Year Down Yonder

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Grace and her mother have always been their own family, traveling from place to place like gypsies. But Grace wants to finally have a home all their own. Just when she thinks she's found it her mother says it's time to move again. Grace summons the courage to tell her mother how she really feels and will always regret that her last words to her were angry ones.

After her mother's sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met. She can't imagine her mother would want her to stay with this stranger. Then Grace finds clues in a mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on. Maybe it is her mother, showing her the way to her true home.

Lyrical, poignant and fresh, The Secret Hum of a Daisy is a beautifully told middle grade tale with a great deal of heart.

Hi Tracy! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I became a writer because of All the Things. A childhood filled with wonder and nature and love and awfulness. All of those experiences mixed together into a stew and I just have this deep need to unwind it and get it down. My stories are not autobiographical in their literal circumstances, but the emotional circumstances are written from my experience with loss and joy and that overwhelming feeling I had as a kid that things just had to get better. And they did. So for me, it’s important to deliver that message to my readers, but also, writing those types of stories is a constant reminder to myself.

2. That’s great that your writing reminds you of this too. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I sat down quite a few years ago to capture something that happened in my own childhood. I had a statue named Mary that I believed was magic—believed it so hard that I brought it to school for show and tell and would tell anyone who asked about its magical properties. One girl laughed at me and my ridiculous claims, so I told her I’d prove it by throwing Mary onto the hard asphalt. When it shattered, something broke in me, too, and later, I felt drawn to write about what happened. But, interestingly, characters have their own needs and so those particular circumstances from my past fell away as I concentrated more on the feelings they inspired. A lack of faith, a feeling of disconnection, grief. Grace came alive because of what happened to me as a kid, but she took on a life of her own as I gave myself over to the process of story. And healing.

3. It’s great how you drew on your own experiences for the inspiration for your story. Voice is so important, especially in middle grade stories. Did Grace’s voice come easily to you and what tips do you have on getting the middle grade character’s voice right?

Grace’s voice was always there. In fact, I’ve struggled a bit in my new story with the voice because Grace’s way of looking at things still butts in from time to time. My best advice on writing for middle grade is revisiting your own middle grade years. Really go there. Focus on the emotion of the time; the white-hot joy, the overwhelming heartbreak, the expansion of ideas and wrong turns. Also, read a hundred middle grades, one right after the other. Write down what made them work, what sorts of emotions were on the page. Embrace your middle-grade self. She’s in there.

4. I know your advice is true, but must I really go back to those painful years? Just kidding. I know cranes play a role in your story. Share a bit about them and why you decided they would be important to the story.

One of the components of the story is migration. Mama moves she and Grace all over the state of
California, searching for the perfect place to call home. And there is a mystery subplot with the origami. Then I read there was a crane reserve not far from the area where the story takes place, and it all came together. Wings, feathers, flight—those images just felt true to Grace’s journey.

5. That’s amazing how you just discovered the crane reserve close to the setting for your book. What was a challenge you faced craft-wise in writing THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY and how did you overcome it?

PLOT. Traditional thinking around plot is that the character must have an external goal. It wasn’t until finding Robert Olen Butler’s FROM WHERE YOU DREAM that I discovered the idea that it’s enough for the character to have a strong yearning for something they aren’t emotionally equipped to handle. The story then goes about breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of achieving happiness. Once I got this, it was easier to provide an external plot. I highly recommend the book for everyone, but especially those looking to write contemporary, character driven stories.

6. Robert Butler’s book sounds like a great read for contemporary writers. I’ve read that you enjoy reading books on the craft of writing. What are three of your favorites and why do you recommend them?

I use different pieces of craft books at different times. To get down a first draft, I use Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT, but only the beat sheet. As a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer, this helped me tremendously in plotting just enough to get myself to the next structural marker in the story, without feeling burdened by a too specific outline. The one I use in revision is THE PLOT WHISPERER. This one helps in getting to know each of the characters as well as provide every possible idea for how to organize the mess I just created. FROM WHERE YOU DREAM is one to use all along the way for inspiration and as a reminder to trust my instincts.

7. I use the ideas from SAVE THE CAT too and I’ve heard of THE PLOT WHISPERER. I’ll have to check it out. Rosemary Stimola is your agent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I really wanted someone who I felt “got” my work, would invest in me as a writer with their time and effort, and who published other books in the same vein as mine. Secondarily, it would be nice to have someone with connections in other areas – foreign markets, film and TV. So, I went to querytracker and pulled up a list of possibilities, and then read interviews, went to agency websites and read clients’ books. When I had my list, Ro was at the very top. At first, though, I thought, “Um. Hunger Games. This is so not going to happen.” But then I found this in an interview Literary Rambles linked to on Cynsations where Ro stated, “… I never walk away from a pitch-perfect, character-driven middle grade with the right blend of humor and pathos.”

After sending a query, she requested the manuscript just before Christmas 2012 and got back to me in early January with a revision request. After a revise and resubmit, I sent it back and she offered representation. It was all so surreal. You have this dream for years and then, BAM, it’s not a dream anymore. It’s actually happening. Ro has been perfect for me. She is no-nonsense, professional and concise. She returns emails within minutes and loves to brainstorm. I have never once felt like a small fish in her big pond. She treats everyone like a rock star and I’m so happy she’s with me on this journey.

We went on submission in late February and had a two-book deal in May with Stacey Barney at Putnam/Penguin. Another total dream come true. I would say that everyone needs to publish with Stacey, but you can’t have her. She’s mine. However, everyone should publish with Penguin. They are incredible. Ro has since sold rights to Konigskinder/Carlsen in Germany, at auction, and brought HUM along to Bologna and London where I’m waiting, not-too patiently, to hear news.

8. I met Rosemary at a SCBWI weekend conference. She’s a fantastic speaker so I can imagine what an amazing agent she must be. I know you’re doing a blog tour. How did you decide on the blogs for your tour and what advice do you have for middle grade authors setting up their debut blog tour?

I researched blogs that I thought would have an interest in contemporary middle grades, or who primarily focus on middle grade. I pitched myself and offered to send a galley. I took up people on their offers for an interview or review if they came my way. The advice I would give is to keep it to ten blogs or less and don’t focus on the blog’s readership numbers as much as the connection you feel to that blog’s reviews/personality, etc. Always lead with your heart.

9. That’s great advice on setting up a blog tour. I’m flattered you included Literary Rambles in your tour. What are you working on now?

My next book, the tentatively titled THE NATURAL HISTORY OF SAMANTHA ROSSI is scheduled for release in 2016 from Penguin and 2017 from Konigskinder. It’s a Vietnam Era story (I refuse to call it historical fiction since I was a kid in 1971, albeit, a very tiny kid) about a girl who wants to be a scientist and when her father comes back from Vietnam changed, she turns to her science books for theories on how she might reverse evolution. It’s a story about once in a lifetime friendships, a Series of Unfortunate Substitute Teachers, and meatballs. Lots of meatballs. As an aside, if you go here http://tracyholczer.com/treasures.html and click on Nonni’s Pink Kitchen Recipes (and yes, that is an actual picture of my Italian grandmother’s pink kitchen) I freely give the best meatball recipe you will ever find. More recipes to follow as we get closer to release. Happy meatballing!

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

Website (where you can find the first chapter of HUM on the Books tab)
Blog (the 30th of each month)

And here’s purchase links:

For an autographed copy (make sure and note it in the comments of the purchase or they won't know about the autograph): http://www.shoponceuponatime.com/book/9780399163937



So there are two giveaways. First there’s a blog tour giveaway. Fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And Tracy’s publisher Putman Juvenile generously offered an ARC of THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through May 26th. I’ll announce the winner on May 28th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it 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. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is for US & Canada residents only.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Tomorrow On Tuesday Casey has a guest post by Shannon Wiersbitzky with a giveaway of WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER.

On Monday I have a guest post by Jacqueline West and a giveaway of one of her books (winner’s choice) in her MG fantasy THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE series. I read the first book in the series and really enjoyed it.

I’ll be off the following Monday because it’s Memorial Day but I’ll be back on Wednesday that week with an interview with author and blogger friend Cherie Reich and a giveaway of REBORN, her new YA fantasy that I can’t wait to read.

The next Monday I have an interview with debut author Skylar Dorset and a ARC giveaway of NEVER TRUST A FAIRY, a urban fantasy that sounds really good and that I would have read if so much hadn’t been going on in my personal life lately.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Bethany Neal and a ARC giveaway of MY LAST KISS, her YA ghost story/mystery. I loved it.

And here's the rest of the blogs on this Blog Tour:
May 6: Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire
May 7: Leandra Wallace
May 8: Heidi Schultz
May 9: AuthorOf
May 10: Read Now, Sleep Later
May 11: Kidlit Frenzy
May 12: Literary Rambles
May 14: Smack Dab in the Middle


Today I'm thrilled to be part of THE FALCONER Blog Tour. It's written by debut author Elizabeth May. I just started it and really have a soft spot for Aileanna, constricted by the role for women in her time, but still a strong, determined character to carry out what she believes is her mission. And I love the steampunk feel to the story.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Heiress. Debutant. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

Doesn't it sound great?

 Chronicle Books is generously giving away a copy of THE FALCONER for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through May 26th. I’ll announce the winner on May 28th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it 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. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is for US & Canada residents only.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Monday I have an interview with debut author Tracy Holczer and a giveaway of THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY, her contemporary MG story, I know many of you will like and wish I had time to read.

On Tuesday Casey has a guest post by Shannon Wiersbitzky with a giveaway of WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER.

The following Monday I have a guest post by Jacqueline West and a giveaway of one of her books (winner’s choice) in her MG fantasy THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE series. I read the first book in the series and really enjoyed it.

I’ll be off the following Monday because it’s Memorial Day but I’ll be back on Wednesday that week with an interview with author and blogger friend Cherie Reich and a giveaway of REBORN, her new YA fantasy that I can’t wait to read.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!

Agent Spotlight: Emma Patterson

This week's Agent Spotlight features Emma Patterson of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. 
Status: Open to submissions.
emma-patterson-agent-brandt-hochmanAbout:Emma Patterson represents fiction ranging from dark, literary novels to historical and upmarket fiction; narrative non-fiction that includes memoir, investigative journalism, and popular history; and young adult fiction along similar lines. She is drawn to both domestic and far-flung settings (while remaining on Earth) that are original and transporting. She is looking for fresh, lyrical, and voice-driven writing, suspenseful plots, emotional narratives, and unforgettable characters. Query by email only..” (Link)
About the Agency:
“Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. is a full-service literary agency whose work representing authors’ interests has spanned most of the 20th century and continues in this digital age. We aim to give our select list of clients every benefit of our experience and expertise in shaping their writing projects, negotiating their contracts, and increasing their visibility throughout the world.
“Founded by Carl Brandt as an adjunct to the Mary Kirkpatrick Dramatic Agency around 1913, the agency’s original roster of literary clients included the bestselling authors of the time. A succession of family members culminating in Carl Brandt’s son, Carl D. Brandt, expanded the firm to Brandt & Brandt Literary Agents, Inc. In 2001, Gail Hochman became president of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. Currently, our staff of senior agents and developing younger agents handles a wide-ranging roster of writers in numerous genres, from literary fiction and memoir to mystery and thriller to history/biography and narrative non-fiction, as well as children’s books. We represent classic titles which have been in print for decades as well as a list featuring 40 to 50 new titles each year.” (Link)
Web Presence:
Brandt and Hochman website.
What She's Looking For:
Genres / Specialties:
Fiction: Commercial, Historical, Literary, Mystery, Short Story Collections, Women's Fiction, Young Adult.
Non-Fiction: Biography, Memoirs, Current Affairs; Politics, Food & Lifestyle, History, Current Affairs, Multicultural, Narrative, Pop Culture, Entertainment, True Crime, Journalism. ( Link)
From Guide to Literary Agents (08/2013):
“I am on the lookout for literary and commercial fiction, upmarket women’s fiction, historical fiction, narrative nonfiction, pop culture, memoir, food writing, and YA and MG fiction and nonfiction. I’m open to mostly any project with strong writing, an original premise, and a story that immediately grabs me – and I still think about weeks after I’ve finished reading it. I’m especially drawn to stories that make me cry, laugh, or transport me to a world that’s new to me. So long as the writing is strong, I don’t shy away from dark or quiet stories. I don’t tend to like category or genre fiction.” (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
Picture books, Screenplays, textbooks (Link).
Editorial Agent?
“I love working with writers – I love reading a book and not being able to put it down, I love talking to writers about all the amazing parts of their work, I love having an editorial back-and-forth with writers to make their book the best possible book it can be, and most of all, I love the pride and admiration I feel for the writer when other people adore their book as much as I do.” (Link)
There is a list of agency clients on the website. Ms. Patterson’s clients include:
Patrick Arden, Louise Aronson, Rita Mae Brown, Kim Church, Sarah Cornwell, Eileen Cronin, Laura Furman, Gregg Herken, Brandon Jones, James Morrow, Lenore Myka, Anne Riley, among others.
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes (preferred).
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: No.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
“The best way to contact me is via email at epatterson [at] bromasite.com with a basic query letter (a bit about the project, the author, and the author’s past publishing or writing history). A few pages of the work can also be pasted into the body of the email, but I won’t open attachments unless I’ve specially asked for one.” (Link)
Query Tips:
“One seemingly obvious—but often overlooked—tip for authors is to proofread your query letter. It's the first piece of your writing that an agent will read. If I'm not drawn to your writing in your query, or there are lots of confusing typos, I usually assume that I'll feel similarly about the rest of your work.” (Link)
Response Times:
Ms. Patterson only responds if interested. Stats on the web suggest a response time of just days to a couple weeks for queries, and 2-10 weeks for requested material.
What's the Buzz?
Emma Patterson joined Brandt and Hochman in January of 2013 after eight plus years with the Wendy Weil Agency. She represents a small but growing list of clients who seem to adore her and is open to both middle grade and young adult fiction. Houses she’s sold to include Random House, Knopf, St. Martin’s Press, Harper, Algonquin, Norton, Spenser Hill Press, and Dzanc Books.
Worth Your Time:
(Agent) Interviews:
Q&A With Emma Patterson at Scripts & Scribes (05/2015)
Getting to Know Literary Agent Emma Patterson at Whitney Bell Writes (04/2015)
LitChat Interview: Emma Patterson, Literary Agent at LitStack (08/2013).
Around the Web:
Literary Agent Emma Patterson of Brandt and Hochman Literary Seeks New Clients at Guide to Literary Agents (05/2013).
The Top Five Agents I Would Query Again at Anne Riley Books (02/2013).
An Interview with Becky Taylor (A QueryTracker Success Story) at QueryTracker.
Please see the Brandt and Hochman website for additional contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last Updated: 5/2/20.
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes
Last Reviewed By Agent? 5/8/14.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's/teen fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying. The information found herein is subject to change.