Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • 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.

Debut Author Interview: Kacy Ritter and The Great Texas Dragon Race Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Kacy Ritter here to share about her debut MG contemporary fantasy The Great Texas Dragon Race. I’m a huge fan of contemporary fantasies, and this one is set in Texas where my late husband is from. So, I’m super excited to read Kacy’s book.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Wings of Fire meets The Hunger Games in this debut contemporary middle grade fantasy stand-alone about thirteen-year-old Cassidy Drake, who enters the dangerous Great Texas Dragon Race to save her family’s dragon sanctuary.

Thirteen-year-old Cassidy Drake wants nothing more than to race with her best dragon, Ranga, in the annual Great Texas Dragon Race. Her mother was a racing legacy, and growing up on her family's dragon sanctuary ranch, Cassidy lives and breathes dragons. She knows she could win against the exploitative FireCorp team that cares more about corporate greed than caring for the dragons. 

Cassidy is so determined to race that she sneaks out of her house against her father's wishes and enters the competition. Soon, Cassidy takes to the skies with Ranga across her glorious Lone Star State. But with five grueling tasks ahead of her, dangerous dragon challenges waiting at each one, and more enemies than allies on the course, Cassidy will need to know more than just dragons to survive. 


Before I get to Kacy’s interview I have my IWSG Post.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts this month are: PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, Gwen Gardner, Pat Garcia, and me!

Optional Question: 99% of my ideas come from dreams. Where do yours predominantly come from?

Mine definitely do not come from dreams. I hardly ever remember mine. My ideas come from asking “What if?” and seeing things in my everyday life. For example, the idea for my current YA fantasy came from finding a very weird ugly button I found in a flower bed soon after I moved into this house. Here’s a picture of the button:

In my story, the button has a tiny gold rope and a key that are magical.

Where do your ideas come from?

Interview With Kacy Ritter

Hi Kacy! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

Like many writers, I grew up with my nose in a book. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and many of my best friends were—and still are—fictional characters. I LOVE worldbuilding and am such a fantasy geek at heart.

2. Where did you get the idea for The Great Texas Dragon Race?

They say, “Write what you know.” Well, as a Texas fantasy geek, I know dragons and I know Texas… so I thought, “Why not?” I decided to write a contemporary American fantasy that played on familiar Wild West themes, and when I envisioned a young girl in red cowboy boots racing across the West Texas sky on her bestie dragon, everything fell into place. I loved the idea of usurping a familiar horse trope and turning it on its head. The “ranch story”a plot in which a large landowner attempts to force out the proper underdog rancher—is a classic Western archetype. My protagonist, Cassidy Drake, seemed like the perfect dragon rider to save her farm and dragons from abuse and exploitation.

Your Writing Process

3. How did you develop the world-building for the magical elements of your world that is set in a modern-day world? Share tips for other writers who write contemporary fantasies.

My novel doesn’t actually feature magic at all! In The Great Texas Dragon Race, everything is the same as our world, except that it’s filled with dragons. The dragons don’t talk, though they are very expressive, and they don’t possess supernatural abilities. This allowed me to create a grounded fantasy in which dragons are treated—and sometimes abused—like any other animal in our world. I think it’s critical for writers to remember that fantasy can look like whatever they want. For some, that can include well-planned, hard magic systems. (Which I also love!) For others, like me, it can simply be adding a dash of the fantastical to the modern world.

4. That’s a good point about contemporary fantasies and fantasies in general. It sounds like your book is a real page-turner from the first page. Share about how you kept the plot moving. Did you have any slow parts in your earlier drafts? How did you pick up the pace?

I had soooo many slow parts in earlier drafts. Yeesh! I’m also in the middle of drafting a second (unrelated) modern Texas fantasy, and while I think I’m moving the plot forward, I know there will be slow parts that get the proverbial ax in subsequent drafts. Because you really do have to kill your darlings. Over the course of the past few years, I’ve become a huge fan of beat sheets and plotting beforehand really helps me keep up the pace. That way, I don’t waste valuable words explaining settings and characters… Which I used to do ALL of the time. Instead, I let the characters interact with the scenery as they move on to the next beat.

5. You have a full-time job. What’s your writing schedule like and how do you complete your manuscripts fast enough when you have another career?

Fun fact: I also have a one-year-old daughter, so the past year has been… interesting. Honestly, I have no idea how I’ve gotten through. I imagine it has been some combination of coffee, therapy, and a strict weekend writing schedule. ;)

Your Road to Publication

6. What was your road to publication like?

The most interesting aspect of my road to publication was that I originally wrote my novel as YA! When I queried, I had a relatively “good” request rate, but many agents said they couldn't see where the novel would fit in the market. Fortunately, I ended up with two offers of representation anyway! The agent I decided to work with, Adriann Zurhellen, had a fantastic editorial vision for my story and suggested I age Cassidy down and tweak the novel to middle grade. Lo and behold, something clicked! I’d been a middle grade writer in disguise the whole time.

7. That’s great that you were flexible enough to switch from YA to middle grade. How did your editor help you strengthen your story? What did you learn about the craft of writing from working with your editor?

My editor, Emilia Rhodes, really is a rockstar. She has the innate ability to see the diamond in the rough. I *thought* my novel was pretty polished by the time it hit her desk, but it didn’t have the sparkle it has now. She guided me to streamline the story and eliminate plot threads that didn’t need to be there. At the same time, she helped me breathe life into the social dynamics at work during the brief “down times” within the race. So… what did I learn? A whole heck of a lot.


8. What are you planning to do to promote your book and celebrate its release?

I’ve been sending bookplates and bookmarks to any indie who will take them. (Hey, indie bookstores: Do you want bookplates? Let’s connect!) I’m also celebrating my launch at a fantastic Houston indie, Blue Willow Bookshop. There will be books. There will be cookies. And maybe—just maybe— there will be a LARGE INFLATABLE DRAGON.

I also have dragon-y events planned in Dallas, Arlington, Plano, Denton, San Antonio. Check out my website for more info!

9. How are you using Twitter and Instagram to connect with readers, teachers, and librarians?

For me, it’s all about hashtags and forming meaningful digital relationships with readers and writers who love MG. The outpouring of support, especially from teachers, indies, and librarians, has also been so lovely and unexpected. But our 2023 debut class has been critical in amplifying content. Both @2023debuts and the brilliant middle grade debut authors at @MGin23 are always ready and willing to boost the signal, share the love, and spread the word!

10. What are you working on now?

My next book was just announced last week! Tentatively called The Marfa Monster Mystery, it’s about a 13-year-old half-siren and her friends solving a mystery in the hopes of saving their monster-friendly community from the human skeptics. It’s also set in Texas (because I just can’t help myself) and features a Vintage Trailer Park Inn for Monsters. Yeehaw!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kacy. You can find Kacy at https://www.kcritter.com/, https://twitter.com/KC_Ritter, and https://www.instagram.com/kc_ritter/.

Giveaway Details

Kacy is generously offering a pre-order of The Great Texas Dragon Race for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by July 15th. If your email is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or Kacy on her social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This book giveaway is U.S.

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

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

FYI, I do not have as much planned this summer. I’m taking a little break to enjoy my daughter’s wedding celebrations and to help get ready for the wedding.

Monday, July 10 I have an interview with author Refe Tuma and a giveaway of his MG adventure story Frances and the Monster

Saturday, July 15 I’m participating in the Sip Sip Hooray Giveaway Hop

Monday, July 25 I have an agent spotlight interview with Danielle Hunter and a query critique giveaway

Tuesday, August 1 I’m participating in the Apple a Day Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, August 2 I have an interview with debut author Vanessa Montalban and a giveaway of her YA contemporary fantasy A Tall Dark Promise

Monday, August 7 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jane Chun and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, August 16 I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Monday!




Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is a weird button.
Thanks for co-hosting today.
And any story with dragons is cool!

Leigh Caron said...

That's fascinating button indeed. And great interview with Kacy Ritter.

Pat Garcia said...

Stories come out of the strangest things. It's all in the way you see things.
Thank you for co-hosting.
Shalom shalom

Jan Morrison said...

Such a cool button! I love to be inspired by random objects as well. Why did this show up here and now? What is its story? Thanks for hosting this month!

Jennifer Lane said...

I love your button inspiration, Natalie!

Congratulations to Kacy.

Loni Townsend said...

That's a cool button! And I think it's awesome you get your ideas from "What if..." scenarios. Those are fun and can go in some wild directions.

Thanks for co-hosting!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

The button itself, and then finding it where you did, would trigger so many What If's for me. Love how it inspired you!

Jemi Fraser said...

I love the What If questions!! So much fun! And that's a fascinating button :)

The world-building The Great Texas Dragon Race sounds amazing - best of luck to Kacy!

Nancy Gideon said...

Thanks for introducing Kacy. I'm feeling kind of firebreathing today!

cleemckenzie said...

Kacy Ritter's story sounds like an exciting tale. Congrats to her.

I once hear Ray Bradbury speak and, like you, he told us he began considering his stories by asking "What if?"

Thanks for co-hosting today.

Computer Tutor said...

Great interview. I love reading how writers manage raising young children and writing a book--something I failed at! Love that hat, Kacy!

Debs Carey said...

Oooo Natalie, that is an amazing button - what a great find! I can totally see why it sparked such a great idea.

@DebsDespatches posting today from Fiction Can Be Fun

emaginette said...

I love the button--mostly--because it inspired you. I inherited by grandmother's old treadle sewing machine. I bet I can find a few stories in its five drawers if I try. hehehe

Anna from elements of emaginette

Samantha Bryant said...

"What if?" is a great place to start (and I don't say that just because that's also often where I start, LOL). @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Jen said...

That button is so interesting!
I love finding weird things that inspire stories. That happens to me all the time!
Love me a good dragon story :)
Thanks for co-hosting!

Carol Kilgore said...

That's a cool button! It might have inspired something from me too :)

authorjessa said...

I love how something you found in your garden inspired your story. Story artifacts are so cool! And Ritter's book sounds like so much fun. Thanks for sharing :)

Fundy Blue said...

The button is truly unique, Natalie! I don't find it ugly. I think that it is fascinating. I'm looking forward to reading your book! Kacy's book looks awesome. Enter me in the drawing, please!

Sonia Dogra said...

'What if?' is a good question to get your creative juices flowing. Thank you for Kacy's interview. I found inspiration there. Thank you for co-hosting, Natalie!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that button does stimulate the imagination. How lucky to have found it. Now, I'm curious. Can I read the story inspired by the magical button?

Thanks for co-hosting our July blog hop.
Cheers, @ Lynn La Vita

Gwen Gardner said...

Natalie, I love the button story. Lots can come from that.

Kacy, your story sounds like it has a touch of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (which I love). Good luck and Congratulations!

Lidy said...

Most of my story ideas are dream inspired. If I had to calculate, I'd say it's about 90% plus. The rest are things, like a picture, setting or sound that caught my attention.
Congrats on the debut Kacy. The Great Texas Dragon Race sounds like something my son will like. Would probably get it for him as a Christmas present.

Sherry Ellis said...

Sounds like a great book! I'm amazed she wrote it with a one-year-old in the house!

I don't get inspired by dreams, either. I don't remember them—just like you. I get inspired by things that happen to me or things I experience.

Sarah Foster said...

That's an interesting button! I'm not surprised it sparked a story idea.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A magical key - how fun!

Olga Godim said...

A button as an inspiration for a story! How quaint.
I like dragons in stories. They work for any age group.

S.E. White Books said...

I love that inspiration! The button is fascinating. Thanks for co-hosting this month, and happy IWSG day.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

I love the button inspiration. I used to have to come up with stories to explain all sorts of inexplicable things to my kids (especially people's behaviors). I think I've not been paying enough attention recently.

Kacy's book sounds great--I like that there's no magic, just dragons as a normal part of the world. Dang it all, they *ought* to be!

PJ Colando said...

Thanks for your support for other writers - and for co-hosting today. Your generosity is inspiring!

Your button prompt reminded me about a special button on one of my cherished childhood dresses - I need to write about it!

J.Q. Rose said...

Now I'm curious. What story did that button inspire? Very classy looking button BTW. Thanks for co-hosting!

diedre Knight said...

An unusual button in a garden. What a wonderful source of inspiration!
Thank you for co-hosting!

Happy writing ;-)

Liz A. said...

What a great idea for a novel. Hook them into riding dragons early, and get them into all of the great dragon books that are out there. Sounds like fun.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Dragons and Texas sounds fun. I don't remember most of my dreams and that is an ugly button.

Sandra Cox said...

Kacy, What an intriguing idea for a story. Wishing you much success.
Natalie, I love that you got a story idea from a button. Thanks for co-hosting.

Brenda said...

What a cool button,very intrigued with how you’ll use it in your story. No need to enter me in the giveaway, I read and loved The Great Texas Dragon Race!

Donna K. Weaver said...

I love that you still have the button!

Great Texas Dragon Race sounds fun!

Carol Baldwin said...

Dragons in Texas? That definitely sounds like a MG book that kids will love! Great concept.

Aziza Evans said...

azizaevans@ymail.com would love to read this book

kimlajevardi.com said...

What ifs are great places to start. That's a great button!

Rosi said...

I love your button! This sounds like a book fantasy lovers will eat up. Thanks for telling me about it. I'll pass on the giveaway. Buried in books here.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Oh my gosh, I love how the button triggered a story for you. What an interesting button!

The Great Texas Dragon Race sounds like a fun read.

Elizabeth Varadan said...

I love that button. And I'm intrigued to see the story that came from it. I'll look for updates

Meanwhile, what an interesting idea Kacy had to take a familiar trope and simply add dragons. Her advice is well worth thinkinking about. I really like the idea that fantasy can simply be one element added to an otherwise traditional situation. Good luck with.any sales, Kacy.

Elizabeth Varadan said...

That was MANY sales, not any sales.

Liza said...

I love that you got your story idea from a button you found in your garden. I once developed one after my husband found a glass bottle in our backyard. Thanks for hosting and all you do, Natalie.

Greg Pattridge said...

Thanks for posting a great interview. I have this book on my future review list (July 31) and seeing how the idea for the book was formed and the path to publication has me more excited to dive in and give it a read.

Tonja Drecker said...

That is a very neat button!
Love the dragon in Texas idea. Sounds like a fun read.

Valinora Troy said...

I love the sound of your story, Natalie, and what an interesting button! Great interview, I love dragons and the book sounds a winner, and I am sad that I am not eligible for the draw! :( Wishing Kacy the best of luck with it!

Danielle H. said...

Middle grade fantasy is so much fun to read for me. I love the idea of dragon races and championing animal rights too. Excellent layering and addition of heart to an exciting novel. I follow Natalie on Twitter and the author on Instagram. I also shared on tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/yesreaderwriterpoetmusician/722108375749492736/debut-author-interview-kacy-ritter-and-the-great?source=share

J. S. Vila said...

Interesting interview to the author. Ever is good to read this. Have a nice summer.

Kate Larkindale said...

I love that a button triggered a story for you! But it is a weird-looking button!

Lisa said...

I love the button! Mine also come from a lot of "What ifs" but also ideas come from life around me, things I see, or watch which spark the flame...

Emma said...

"What if" is a common jumping-off point for my writings. It tends to start with someone saying something - usually at what would be the end of the piece - and then everything gets built around that. My characters have no idea how much depends on their words.

If anywhere in the United States was going to have dragons, it'd be Texas!

Congratulations to your daughter on her upcoming wedding! I hope it's a wonderful and blessed time!

Janet Alcorn said...

Most of my stories began with some form of What If. Those words are magical.

Allie said...

looks like a fun read! thank you for the chance to win a copy. my email is happilyunboxing(at)gmail.com.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.