Thursday, July 2, 2020

Dear O'Abby: My Writing Career is Going Nowhere. Should I Quit?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm a published author with three novels out and over twenty novellas and pieces of short fiction published in anthologies and literary journals.  Yet my last royalty cheque from my publisher was for $16.  My total earnings across all these publications is less than $400.

Now, I never thought I'd earn a living writing fiction, but I've spent way more than that $400 on publicity and marketing, copies of my own books to give to libraries, advertising and just paying the electricity bill so I can keep writing.  At what point should a writer give up this gig as a bad investment?  I'd probably make more baking cupcakes and selling them on the street.

Do you have any advice?  Should I quit and find something else to do with my spare time?  

Yours,

Disheartened.

Dear Disheartened,

I hear you.  I can be discouraging when you spend all those years polishing your words until they shine and then it seems like no one reads them.

At the end of the day, it really has to come down to why you write.  If you're writing to make a living, then the return you're getting isn't working for you.  But that's the case for most writers, even ones that seem wildly successful.  There are very few writers out there who are supporting themselves on their writing income alone.  And certainly not those with families to support.

If you write because you have something to say, stories burning to get out of your head and onto the page, that's different.  Not all writing has to be for publication.  Sometimes it's fun to write something just for yourself without the pressure of thinking about your audience.

I write because it's the way I make sense of the world.   It's how I explore different facets of humanity and the different ways people react to events and emotions.  If that writing turns into something I can publish, then so be it.  But it's not the reason I sit down to write.

Whether or not you quit is up to you.  Yes, there are other ways to spend your spare time.  But would those other things be as rewarding to you?  Would they give you the same sense of achievement?

Maybe try it out.  I love to bake and often feel as much joy when completing a batch of cinnamon buns or cupcakes as I do when I type 'the end' on a manuscript.  Maybe your spare time would be better spent with confectioners sugar and a piping bag.  Maybe that will make you happier (and potentially richer).

But you're not going to know until you try.

Best,

O'Abby

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Chris Durston

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

Each Little Universe by Chris Durston


1- What is your favorite video game of 2020 so far?

Even though I think of myself as a big gamer, I actually haven't played anything that's come out this year. Too expensive! The closest thing would be the recent Pokémon Sword & Shield expansion, which I'm currently playing and really enjoying.


2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Give yourself permission not to get it right straight away. You can keep going and come back, but nitpicking for too long can hurt momentum and motivation.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

A few good bits of advice that come to mind - varying sentence length and cutting down on dialogue tags are two I try to pay attention to- but I think the thing I remember the most is simply 'show, don't tell'. Sometimes you have to do a bit of telling, but if you can get the reader to know exactly what you're saying without saying it outright then you've achieved something cool.

4- What kind of discussions came up in June during your #Philosophiraga podcast all about video games and philosophy?

The June episode was an interview with my other half! Usually, the show is just a monologue presentation in which I talk about ideas from philosophy and relate them to games, but the June episode was an interview with my other half! We got to discuss how games teach us things, why they used to be more colourful and fun, and whether philosophy is actually any use anyway. (Spoilers: I think so, she's not so convinced!)

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book and a game?



6- What makes EACH LITTLE UNIVERSE a "vaguely magical realist" novel?

I think of Each Little Universe as magical realism because it's set in a world very much like our own 'real' world, just a bit more strange. Bizarre things can just happen, and people just go along with it. A big theme of the story is that people are inherently strange and special, and so humans can make seemingly impossible things happen in this world. It's an urban fantasy in the sense that a fantastical element enters a 'real' world, but I think it's 'vaguely magical realist' in that it also interprets normal, real life as being kind of fantastical on its own.

7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

I'm @overthinkery1 on Twitter, and I'd love to give a shout-out to Tessa Hastjarjanto ( @Endalia ), whose book Tales of Lunis Aquaria was a big inspiration for my current work in progress, and Chris Van Dyke ( @aboutrunning ), the very cool editor of an upcoming bizarre and awesome anthology project.

8- What’s one writing goal you hope to accomplish before you die?

I would love to have a shelf somewhere that has nothing on it but stuff I've written. I think being able to look at that would just make me feel super accomplished.

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I like to read a lot of different stuff, fiction and nonfiction. I think for me to get motivated to pick up a new book I just have to believe that I'll find it interesting, although the thing that makes me most excited to read a book is when I've got some indication that it's going to make me see the world differently. I love learning about consciousness, for example, and I adore 'weird' fiction that interprets things in a unique way or has a unique voice or just makes my mind feel as if it's coming across something new.

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

It’s come a long way in ten years! I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I think I wrote my first novel about ten years ago when I was in school. It was... pretty bad, but I knew I wanted to keep writing. In ten years I’d love to have a good ten more published books under my belt, if not a few more. I just don’t want to stop, basically.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

That’s a really hard question. I think I’d have to say The Silmarillion, but Tolkien isn’t on Twitter! One that comes to mind where the author is on Twitter, though, would be:
Author name: Will Wight @WilliamWight
Title: Cradle series
Love because: I recently picked up and got very into.


12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

I hope people will laugh, think a bit about some stuff they maybe wouldn’t usually think about, enjoy hanging out with these characters, and feel that they’ve gone on a journey together.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

I don’t expect to have any real impact, but the fact that some people who’ve read it have engaged enough with it to be able to have really good discussions about the characters and the themes has been incredible, and that’s enough of an impact for me for the time being.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

Scrivener was super handy in getting through the second draft: working out the structure, making revisions, keeping track of what was going on. Honestly, though, Google Docs is the greatest thing and it’s totally free.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

I wanted to be representative in Each Little Universe, but as a straight white cis guy I didn’t want to make their stories *about* their diverse identities. It didn’t feel like those were my stories to tell, so characters have this diversity but the story doesn’t dwell on it. The protagonist is mixed-race, the majority of characters are pansexual, and there is a non-binary character; again, though, in each of these cases these things are part of who they are but aren’t really dwelt upon. They’re all just people.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I'm woefully underaware of all the fantastic book bloggers out there; I know there are a lot I've not found yet, because I'm only really new to the writing and reading community online spaces (I'm much more familiar with the games blogging circles). That said, I really like Daniel Greene, who churns out really good video reviews and insights into fantasy books at an astonishing pace.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I decided to self-publish because I decided that I just had to get this book out there one way or another. I considered querying and trying the traditional route, but it got to the point where I realised I was just going to have to do it so that I could say it was done, and so far I'm happy with that decision! I also have to give a lot of credit to my other half for making me decide that I had to do it, then stay accountable to getting it done.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

I think Each Little Universe probably bears the most resemblance to something Haruki Murakami might do, in that he's similarly interested in finding stranger and more magical interpretations for everyday things. That said, I tend to describe it as something like what Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett might have come up with if they were giant nerds and worked on Scott Pilgrim logic. As for other things I have in the works, I'm sort of half-deliberately trying to capture some of the vibes I get from Jorge Luis Borges, Jeff Vandermeer, China Mieville: along the Murakami lines, but perhaps even a little stranger.

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

What was the last book that really made you see something differently? Could be a little detail of the world that you got a new perspective on, or could be a total shift in your beliefs!

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

I would just like to say thank you to everyone who has read Each Little Universe and supported me on the journey so far! It's been fun.

Blurb:

Each Little Universe is the tale of two oddball nerds, one girl from the stars, and the place we each find for ourselves in a huge, weird cosmos. It's 'funny, sad, nerdy, cool, thought-provoking, poignant', and 'one of the most out-there-in-a-good-way books ever'.

Bio:

Chris Durston doesn't often know what's going on, like with anything, but he's OK with it. He's been meaning to get around to being a writer forever but has only just worked up the energy to do anything about it; now he's started, though, he doesn't plan to stop. He also hosts Philosophiraga, a podcast about video games and philosophy.

Twitter: @overthinkery1
Facebook: Chris Durston Does Words
Instagram: chrisdurstondoeswords
Website: https://chrisdurston.com/


Each Little Universe by Chris Durston

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

What is Genre?

While it may seem simple to discuss the definition of genre and provide examples at this point, I am finding in my research on genres for Q: What Are You Reading? series that even I need a refresher on the basics. Particularly since I have not read many books in several of the categories you will learn about in the coming months on Tuesdays.

Genre is the organization and classification of writing according to The Writer's Dictionary. Here are some videos that explain genre more in depth, available here and here.

I was introduced to Story Grid recently, which is a system for planning and analyzing novels. The scenes that are expected in each genre are a key point in using Story Grid successfully. Check out information about the Five Leaf Genre Clover here, with information about Content, Time, Structure, Reality, and Style.

There are differences between fantasy for young adults and fantasy for adults. There is also a category for middle grade. Overall, genre is a way to organize writing into categories that make it easier to find what you want to read. I'm excited to share some reading suggestions in a variety of genres. Join me on Tuesdays for reading lists and suggestions.

Monday, June 29, 2020

We're half-way to 2021!

Can we re-install the year 2020?  This version has a virus.

Yes I know, that was a really bad joke
Tomorrow is the last day of June.  This means that it's less than a week until US Independence Day!  But this year, all the local fireworks shows here in SoCal have been canceled because of the virus-which-won't-be-named.  Looks like my family will have to be content with (1) videos of fireworks, and/or (2) illegal fireworks in our back yard.
Below is an actual photo of my actual backyard on July 5, 2015, the day after my actual son set an actual [illegal] firework too close to an actual bush and actually lit it. Wish me luck for this year LOL
Yep, actual fire was here

More importantly, this means the year 2020 is HALF OVER! 

One of my goals for 2020, which was only slightly derailed because of current events, is that I want to begin querying my MG manuscript in September.  So far, I'm still on track, although it might be October.  But that's still 2020, right?!

Are you glad we're half-way to 2021?  What are some of your goals for this year, and were they derailed?



Saturday, June 27, 2020

June 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #5

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary and Tia Rose Mele of Talcott Notch Literary Services for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry 5: Gemini Divided


Query


Jen is a mild-mannered fanfiction writer and obsessive fan of the TV show Gemini Divided who happens to moonlight as an assassin in order to pay for her mother’s chemotherapy. When Will Bryant, the star of Gemini Divided, becomes her next target, her cover job as his personal assistant subjects her directly to his charm. Her resolve to kill him crumbles from the first minute, and she is desperate to know how someone who seems so genuine could have ended up on a hit-list.

When Jen stumbles onto crates full of real guns, not props, and armor piercing bullets while snooping around on the TV studio lot late one night, she knows something is not right. The next day, Will mentions that he saw a closet full of unfamiliar crates the week before. He had thought nothing of it, but Jen makes the connection: Instead of being a monster, like her typical target, Will ended up on her list because someone thinks he knows too much.

Never one to question her orders in the past, Jen must now make an impossible choice. Either she saves herself and her mother by killing Will, an innocent man, or saves Will and puts herself in danger and her mother’s future in jeopardy. A note pushed under her hotel room door informs her that she has two days to kill him. Now she must decide who she is and what choices she can live with.

Told primarily through Jen’s perspective, GEMINI DIVIDED is a 95,000-word suspenseful romcom. It is a cross between Summer Heacock’s CRASHING THE A-LIST and the TV series Blindspot.

GEMINI DIVIDED is my first novel, inspired by my own experience with TV fandoms – which did not involve plans to kill any celebrities[RP1][TRM1].
~~~
Rebecca's comments:
[RP1] I don’t think this query missteps, necessarily, but there is a LOT of information packed into a short space. The fanfiction writing, the chemo, the assassin side job, the tv show—it’s a lot to explain in a few paragraphs. I feel like the first paragraph alone could’ve been expanded into the query letter. It also seems more like a Romantic Thriller than a Suspenseful Romcom, genre-wise, so I’m leaving the query a little uncertain of where this fits in the market, and wary of reading on.

Tia's comments:
[TRM1] Query is well written and gives the reader all the necessary information.

First 250 Words


Jen adjusted the scope and peered through the long-range lens, letting her gaze move once more over the crowd. A handsome man in a dark suit leaned in close to a brunette in a skin-tight emerald dress that was so short, it surely would have been impossible to sit down without exposing herself. As he did, a woman with disheveled red hair and smudged eye makeup jabbed him in the shoulder from behind. When he turned, she flung the contents of her drink in his face, then disappeared into the sea of people as he stood, shocked and dripping wet. Jen tilted her head a few degrees, studying him and frowning as if she expected an explanation. The brunette now tore into the man, and Jen’s attention wandered[TRM2].

Across the room, her eyes were drawn to the back of a woman’s black cocktail dress, which was pressed up against the window. From her angle, she could just barely see the woman’s profile. A man several inches taller tilted his face close to hers, his fingers tangled in her shoulder-length chestnut hair. They were close together, but not quite close enough to be kissing. The plunging back of the dress, which dipped low enough that Jen wondered if the woman could wear any undergarments with it at all, distracted her from analyzing their interaction. When the man’s hand came into view, blatantly groping at the woman’s bottom, Jen rolled her eyes and scanned onward.
~~~
Rebecca's comments:
None

Tia's comments:
[TRM2] The play by play here is a bit telling rather than showing which makes it hard to engage with the story and stay present in the narrative, so I'd stop reading here.


Rebecca - Pass
Tia - Pass






Friday, June 26, 2020

June 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #4

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary and Tia Rose Mele of Talcott Notch Literary Services for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry 4: Flipping


Query


I am seeking representation for FLIPPING, an adult paranormal rom-com. Think The Money Pit, but with a gay ghost and a psychic house flipper duking it out over a haunted house with an agenda of its own. Complete at 95,000 words, this enemies-to-lovers romance is told from the ghost’s point of view[RP1].

Charley Dalton did his time as a homeless man. He’s not about to be a homeless ghost.

When Charley died in 1975 in Savannah, Georgia, he got his second chance on life—the afterlife. Becoming a ghost was the best decision he ever made. He’s got a home now—a derelict haunted mansion—and he lives there with four ghostly companions, his chosen family. It’s idyllic with only one great threat: if the house is renovated or demolished, all he haunts for will come crashing down.

Austin Sparks can see ghosts. He hates them. They’ve been ruining his life since he was a kid. But he’s a house flipper now, and trying to get his life back on track. When good fortune arrives in the shape of a house left to him by his grandmother, he and his partner plan to fix it up and sell it, capitalizing on the rich history of ghosts in Savannah as a major selling point. Over Charley’s dead body.

Charley and Austin go at it hard, each one determined to get rid of the other. But when Charley seriously injures Austin, he puts the house at risk of being sold to a real-estate developer and torn down. Charley has to change tactics. He has to make Austin care about the house enough to never sell it. He has to make Austin love ghosts. Love him.

Probably shouldn’t have pushed him off the roof first[RP2][TRM1].
~~~
Rebecca's comments:
[RP1] Alright, this drew me right in.
[RP2] This query had all of the necessary information, humor, and an exceptionally weird premise for a romance…and I’m in.

Tia's comments:
[TRM1]  This query is really well written and has a great voice!

First 250 Words


It’s a common misconception that ghosts haunt because they have unfinished business with living. Not true. When I died near the train tracks in Savannah, Georgia, in 1975, I was done with all of living. I stayed because heaven was boring and they hadn’t finished the fence around hell yet.

That’s my answer when they ask me—the four other ghosts I live with. They believe it. It’s as good as any of their answers. Charley Dalton doesn’t need a better one than anyone else.

The truth is far less interesting. It’s quite simple to become a ghost, really. Picture that you’ve just died, literally with your pants down in a sordid alley somewhere, shit running down your legs, and when you come to yourself after all the misery you’ve suffered, you see a door open in the air in front of you. You can’t see what’s beyond. It’s as dark as the place you’re coming from. Do you go through to the other side, or do you stay with the person you’ve known all your life—your corpse? When a man dies, he can go into the unknown or stay on the side he understands, even if it’s not a side he was particularly fond of in life. I stayed. That’s all there is to it. We all stayed for one reason or another originally, but the house is why we stay now.

People call it that eyesore at 633 Acorn Street. We haunt to keep it that way[RP3][TRM2].
~~~
Rebecca's comments:
[RP3] I’d keep reading!

Tia's comments:
[TRM2]  This is really well written and a great opening that intrigued the reader. I'd love to see this as a submission!


Rebecca - Pages!
Tia - Pages!

Please email us at operationawesome6 [at] gmail [dot] com for submission information. Congrats!




Thursday, June 25, 2020

June 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #3

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary and Tia Rose Mele of Talcott Notch Literary Services for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry 3: How to Seduce Four Princes


Query


Once upon a time, Ovelynn, a lowly palace guardswoman, falls in love with a handsome prince. Even though they have to keep their relationship a secret from his strict mother, she adores him too much to complain.

Late at night, the God of the Sky appears before her. He says, “I have a task only you can do. If you succeed, I will grant you a wish.”

Feeling suspicious, Ovelynn says, “The tasks of gods always lead mortals to ruin. Pick someone else.”

The god says, “The infertile queen of this kingdom wished for more children, so I accidentally split the prince into four people.”

Ovelynn twitches[RP1].

“If he can’t be cured by the next full moon, then he’ll die. In order to combine him back into one man, all four of him must sleep with the same person. I could just hire a prostitute, but you come for free.” The god shrugs. “The longer the different parts of his mind remain apart, the more violently insane he’ll become. The first person he’ll kill will probably be that bitch who four-timed him with all his brothers. Do your best not to die!”

Ovelynn says, “Oh great god, I have my wish. I want to kick you in the crotch.”[TRM1]

HOW TO SEDUCE FOUR PRINCES is a 73,000-word romance novel. Inside Out meets an R-rated Cinderella with gender-bending and LGBTQ+ romance[RP2]. The main character’s bulimia is based on my own experience. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.
~~~
Rebecca's comments:
[RP1] On the one hand, you’re taking a risk with this format, and some agents may appreciate it. For me, the device of a scene standing in as a summary doesn’t quite work, and goes on too long. I think there’s a way to work in the tone/humor within a standard query, because the premise is interesting, but I was distracted by wrestling with the format.
[RP2] I like this information/description quite a lot, and would rather it be at the top of the query, actually!

Tia's comments:
[TRM1] Try to avoid using dialogue/quotes from the manuscript in the query. The query should be more of a very short summary.

First 250 Words


If you would visit the flying island Avacasta, bring a broad-brimmed hat. This serves a dual purpose: keeping off the never-ending rain and using it to wave down the town guard if you become stuck up a tower with no stairs. The inhabitants of Avacasta have wings, and their city is not designed for poor Ground-Dwellers.

Guardswoman Ovelynn Oxgourd navigated her hover-cart to rescue yet another pair of tourists who hadn’t read their government-issued guidebook. She landed atop the observatory roof. A husband and a wife huddled together under a too-small umbrella, both shouting at her.

“The elevator only went up, then wouldn’t go down again,” the man cried.

“It hasn’t stopped raining since we got here,” the woman said.

Ovelynn sighed. “It never stops raining in Avacasta, not since the God of the Sky angered the Goddess of the Sea. You’re going to need a bigger umbrella.”[TRM2]

The wife pointed at Ovelynn. “It’s not raining on you.”

“I’m half Sea-Folk.”

“But you have wings,” the man said.

“Half,” Ovelynn stressed. They both stared at her.

Halves always took after only one parent, so Ovelynn looked pure Sky, from her big eyes to her slightly pointed ears. She was short even by Sky-Folk standards. Dark curls framed a heart-shaped face. Translucently pale skin gave her an otherworldly air which contrasted with her muscles. A pair of turquoise wings made of pure light stretched from her back. The only sign of Ovelynn’s paternal heritage was the dry bubble around her.
~~~
Rebecca's comments:
None

Tia's comments:
[TRM2] The tone reads a bit young here, almost like it's a children's book. I would stop reading because it doesn't have the voice of an adult project. The opening paragraph is okay but I think it's the dialogue that makes it feel young. This is especially true when the man and woman are first speaking, but continues when Ovelynn responds. 


Rebecca - Pass
Tia - Pass





Wednesday, June 24, 2020

June 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #2

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary and Tia Rose Mele of Talcott Notch Literary Services for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry 2: The Way it Crumbles


Query


Strapped for cash, a first year uni student rents out her apartment to her sexually active peers and one professor who just happens to be having an affair with the girl of her dreams[TRM1].

First year McGill student, Cassandra Baxter, wasn’t prepared for the cost of learning out of province. From tuition to housing, she’s facing a mountain of debt. She’s short on money, but not on machinations, and strikes up a scheme to rent out her apartment to peers in need of a private place for sex. Her financial situation taken care of, Cass turns her attention to wooing Finn, the girl of her dreams. It’s slower going there, stuck in the rut of a budding friendship, but Cass is willing to play the turtle to prove that they are soulmates.

When Cass’s Moral Philosophy professor learns about the apartment, he offers a new deal: exclusive use in exchange for an ‘A’ and a job working as his T.A. next term. It’s a little creepy, sure, but it’s a better deal than the one that has Cass nightly wondering while strangers romp around in her place. Or so she believes, until she learns that her professor is having an affair with Finn. A discovery that has her grappling with her own morality and the tangled webs of unrequited love.

THE WAY IT CRUMBLES is an adult rom com complete at 50,000 words[RP1]. Featuring a predominantly LGBTQ cast (#ownvoices) it blends the charm of a Nora Ephron film with the dark humour of Billy Wilder’s[RP2].
~~~
Rebecca's comments:
[RP1] This wordcount is about 20k too low for an adult romcom, which is enough to make me worry.
[RP2] These are also very non-specific comps, as opposed to a specific book/movie/author, which again makes me worry that the author is working in a genre they haven’t familiarized themselves with, and would likely keep me from reading

Tia's comments:
[TRM1] Great logline

First 250 Words


‘Meet me after class’.

The red words glare up at me from my essay on utilitarianism. They come coupled with the lack of a grade, the kind of absence that doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It agitates my stomach into a series of expert backflips off a balance beam that would impress Simone Biles. It sticks the landing. The four judges applaud, raise large rectangular cards above their heads. Instead of the perfect score I know my stomach deserves, they spell out in big red letters:

MEET ME AFTER CLASS

There’s a signature at the bottom of the page. Gavin Truedove. My Moral Philosophy T.A. I spot his messy mop of hair at the front of the lecture hall. He’s raptly attentive as Professor Sheldon drones on about the upcoming midterm which will require us to write two essays, but not to worry because he’s extending his office hours and blah-blah-blah. His speech becomes a muddled mess of unintelligibility as I simmer in a boiling pot of studious anxiety.

My attention span is dust while I await judgement. My eyes rove the mass of heads in absentminded surveillance. It’s not so aimless a wandering, finding an end when my gaze settles on the short tangle of chestnut brown curls belonging to the love of my life.

There she is, Finnegan Lowell, three rows down and three seats left of me as always[TRM2].
~~~
Rebecca's comments:
None

Tia's comments:
[TRM2] This opening is a bit wordy with multiple metaphors but not so much so that I stopped reading. I actually enjoyed this sample and the story sounds interesting. I'd love to see a submission.


Rebecca - Pass
Tia - Pages!

Please email us at operationawesome6 [at] gmail [dot] com for submission information. Congrats!




Tuesday, June 23, 2020

June 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #1

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary and Tia Rose Mele of Talcott Notch Literary Services for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry 1: Adventurous Als on Kayaks


Query


Envision a long fluorescent kayak zooming down the slopes in the middle of winter[TRM1]. It’s a fun but radical vision, and it’s the basis of Adventurous Al’s on Kayaks[RP1].

This story was inspired by my son (Al-2) and his wife (Al-1) who are always on the go on some adventure. We stored their kayaks while they hiked the Appalachian Trail. When we were arranging for the kayaks to be picked up, I told my daughter-in-law that it was okay that they were getting them because Dad and I were done using them as sleds. I laughed and said, “Can you just picture that?” She laughed and replied, “It sounds like a kids’ story to me.”[RP2] And thus, the groundwork for Adventurous Al’s on Kayaks began[TRM2].

I am qualified to write this story because I know children’s books and what kids like to read. I am an avid reader and have been writing children’s stories for my sons and students since they were very tiny. I am retired from years working in education and libraries, sharing my love of reading with children. I am a published author of articles covering yard and tree care. You can read more about my writing experience at my blog: [blog address redacted]

I am searching for an agent and look forward to hearing about your interest in my attached manuscript[TRM3].
~~~
Rebecca's comments:
[RP1] While this might not stop me from reading, it is a device in queries that makes me wary; a writer instructing me to “envision” or “imagine if” rather than launching into their book’s stats/story.
[RP2] At this point, I still don’t know what the story is about, only that it involves a kayak. I don’t know what genre — YA, PB, or MG — and I don’t know the wordcount. I wouldn’t continue on to read the opening pages when a query letter doesn’t include this information.

Tia's comments:
[TRM1]  This kind of opening actually makes it hard to picture the scene. Rather than starting with "envision," try describing the scene in a way that makes the agent envision without having to tell them to do so.
[TRM2] This is a really fun origin story! 
[TRM3] Include word count in the query.


First 250 Words


Al Squared was a very adventurous couple[RP3]. They loved to be out in nature. You never knew what you would find them doing--hiking, biking, swimming, exploring nature centers, taking in the majestic beautiful of flower gardens, but their favorite activity was kayaking[TRM4].

Al Squared could kayak all day long. They would pack breakfast, lunch, dinner and lots of water, and eat picnics on the water.

This fun couple lived near Minneapolis. They usually kayaked in an area that seemed to have a hundred little lakes all connected by narrow canals. None were too narrow to keep Al Squared away!

The kayak season persisted from early spring until well into the fall. The season never seemed to last long enough for adventuring Al Squared.

When the weather was too frigid to kayak, Al Squared didn't waste away inside. They would bundle up and continue to explore and hike. When the land was graced with snow, they enjoyed many hours snowboarding on the local snow-white hills.

One day while Al Squared were eating breakfast, Al1 saw her kayak being stored on their frozen balcony. Sadly, she complained, "Oh, I sure miss using the kayaks. When will spring arrive?"

Al2 agreed with Al1. He also longed for thrilling days kayaking through the lakes. He thought for a minute and then exclaimed, "I've got it. I know how we can kayak today!"

Flabbergasted, Al1 questioned him, "What do you mean? Al2, there are eight inches of snow on the
~~~
Rebecca's comments:
[RP3] If I did continue onto the story, I would stop reading pretty much right away, because it seems like a children’s book about a grownup couple, and I can’t really imagine where to sell that.

Tia's comments:
[TRM4] I'd stop reading after this first bit because in children's books, the main characters should be children. It's hard to market a book with adult main characters to children, so it would be very difficult to get a publisher to take the project. I also read a bit further and the narrative feels a bit choppy, like there's no transition between ideas, which was jarring to read.

Rebecca - Pass
Tia - Pass





Monday, June 22, 2020

June 2020 Pass or Pages Feedback Delay

Feedback reveal will begin Tuesday instead of today.  Please come back tomorrow for the comments on the first entry by our two awesome participating agents!

[Sorry for the delay.]


Friday, June 19, 2020

Why NOT to query agents who don't represent your genre

Querying can be extremely frustrating. Odds are, eventually you might get to the end of your "agents to query" list without signing with anyone. At that point, sometimes it seems like the thing to do is to branch out a little, maybe query an agent whose interests are only tangentially related to your MS. Or maybe you see a cool agent post on Twitter that they're looking for something specific, and you want to work with them. You wrote high fantasy and the agent is looking for low fantasy - they're both fantasy, that's close enough, right?

Well Yes, But Actually No | Know Your Meme
[Image: "Well yes, but actually no" meme]
Agents have manuscript wish lists and interest lists for a reason: that's their area of expertise. You wouldn't take a motorcycle to a mechanic who only works on trucks. In the same vein, agents explicitly state what genres and age categories they're interested in (and often what they don't want to see) not only because they prefer to read that sort of work, but also because they have connections in that type of literature. That is their field, and as querying writers, it's our job to respect that.

It's not only a bad idea to send a manuscript in a genre an agent doesn't represent, it's unprofessional. It's like saying to the agent that you know they have preferences, but you're choosing to ignore them. Angie Hodapp at the Nelson Literary Agency said it best:
At the end of the day, you shouldn't query an agent who doesn't represent your genre. Period.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Dear O'Abby, I Have an Agent, But...

Dear O'Abby,

I got an agent around two years ago after querying a YA romance.  It sold to a publisher and will be releasing early next year.  Now my agent is asking me for a new book and while I have written two more, they are both adult sci-fi novels, which is what I actually love to write. That YA was something I wrote in two months, pretty much just to see if I could.

I have no real desire to write another YA romance, but my agent isn't interested in my sci-fi at all.  This is really disappointing because I queried two sci-fi novels before I wrote the YA and never got more than a handful of requests.  I'm not sure what to do now.  I felt like I'd made it when I finally got an agent, but now I feel like I'll either be stuck writing books in a genre I'm not that interested in, or back in the query trenches.   Do you have any advice?

Sincerely,

Maybe Agented

Dear Maybe Agented,

First up, let me congratulate you on your upcoming release.  That's exciting news and you should celebrate it.

In terms of your problem, did you tell your agent when you had your initial call with her that YA romance wasn't your primary genre of choice?  Did you let her know your other books were adult sci-fi and writing those books was your passion?  When looking for agents to query with that YA, did you look for agents who also rep adult science-fi?

It's important that your agent knows these things.  If you didn't mention them in your call, is it something you talked about later?   If not, it may be time to have a frank conversation with your agent.

Some authors who write across genres have two agents, one for each type of book they write.  If you think there's a possibility you might write more YA romance, you could stay with your current agent for those books, and ask if she would be happy for you to query your adult sci-fi and find a different agent to rep that.   There may even be another agent within her agency who reps sci-fi and could take on selling those books for you.

But you do need her blessing to do this.  You can't go out and query your sci-fi novels without telling your current agent.  And if you really feel strongly about not writing more YA romance and this is what your agent specializes in, you need to have that conversation.  It may be time for you and your agent to part ways.  There's no benefit to either of you in staying together if you're not writing what she sells, and she doesn't want to sell what you're writing.

Hope this helps!

Good luck with the upcoming release.

X O'Abby


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Operation Awesome #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Sasha Olsen #ChildAuthor

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Legends from Mom's Closet by Sasha Olsen


Sasha Olsen is an author, environmental activist, ballroom dancer, bookworm, pianist, and enjoys anything artistic. Oh, and she's 10-years-old. Get ready to meet a legend in the making:

1- Who is your favorite legendary woman from the past?

Cleopatra because she was mischievous, and I am a little bit too. Especially, because I like to sneak in my mom’s closet!
Operation Awesome #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Sasha Olsen #ChildAuthor

2- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

The best piece of writing advice I’ve received is to not be repetitive!

3- What is your favorite joke?

Question: What’s a shark’s favorite candy?

Answer: A jaw breaker.

4- How can someone best help the ocean?

By having a sustainable life, so to best help the oceans, we should not use fast fashion or single-use plastics. We should remake clothes or wear the same thing and not be ashamed to re-wear our clothes!

5- Would you share a picture with us of your favorite vintage piece?
Vintage clothing ~ Operation Awesome #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Sasha Olsen

My favorite vintage piece is this dress of my mom’s that I wore to dress up as Kusama!

I also love these vintage toys that my dad gifted me. They’re super special!

6- What's your favorite piece to play on the piano?

My favorite piece to play on the piano is called Comedian’s Dance by Dmitri Kabalevsk!

7- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Louis Sachar Title: Holes
Love because: The characters in the story are so brave!


8- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

I hope my book inspires other kids to get creative and come up with their very own unique projects! I want it to make them feel like they can do anything and that nothing should stop them from chasing their dreams.
Operation Awesome #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Sasha Olsen #ChildAuthor

9- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

Who’s your favorite legend and what’s something special you’d need to dress up as them?

10- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

I continue my project on my social media! You can see me dressed up as many more legends on my Instagram and Facebook @legendsfrommomscloset. I also post videos about both of my projects on my YouTube channel: Sasha Olsen.

Bio:

Sasha Olsen is a 10-year-old author, environmental activist, ballroom dancer, bookworm, pianist, and enjoys anything artistic. She always finds new hobbies and things to do, which usually ends up in her trying to juggle everything. She lives with her family in Bal Harbour, Florida, where she also spearheads the conservation movement “I Want My Ocean Back.” Legends from Mom’s Closet is her first book.
Author’s Website: https://www.legendsfrommomscloset.com
Author’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/legendsfrommomscloset
Author’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/legendsfrommomscloset



Legends from Mom's Closet by Sasha Olsen

Monday, June 15, 2020

Books for Father's Day

Sunday June 21, 2020 is Father's Day.

Would your father [grandfather, son, grandson, husband, cousin, best friend, etc] enjoy a book?  Here's some suggested Father's Day book lists:

Real Simple

Ask Men

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

 


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dear O'Abby: Should I Enter Contests

Dear O'Abby,

There seem to be an awful lot of contests for writers out there, all offering a mixture of monetary rewards or publication or both.  As a relative newby to writing, I was wondering if it was worth entering contests, just to get some "runs on the board" so to speak.  You know, so I have something to put into a query letter when and if I ever start querying my novel.

Best,

Contestable

Dear Contestable,

You're right.  There are a lot of contests out there.  And most of them won't do anything to boost your career or raise your credibility as a writer.  Some of them might even lose you some as their rules give the contest-holders rights to your work you really shouldn't give up.

But contests can be fun, and some actually are worthwhile.  The trick is to figure out which is which.

The first thing you need to do when you see a contest is read the rules very carefully.  Make sure you know exactly how your work is going to be treated both if you win, and if you don't.  Some contests ask writers to give them first right of publication even if their story doesn't win rather than relinquishing any hold on the piece as soon as the contest results are announced.

Make sure any contest you enter is being held by a reputable organization, especially if you have to pay a fee to enter.  Personally, I don't pay to play, so if a contest has a reading fee or other charge to enter, I won't do it.  Too often contest-holders rely on collecting entry fees to pay out their promised monetary prizes.

Any contest with a huge number of categories to enter sets off red flags for me.  It feels like a way to make everyone feel like they're a winner, even if they aren't very good.  Really think about whether winning an award for the best Australian sci-fi romance in verse from a non-Australian writer (fictional example of course) is worth anything in the long-run.

Writer Beware often has useful information about contests and often calls out those who have particularly bad terms and conditions, or are ripping off writers.  I suggest checking there before entering anything you might have a weird feeling about.

Like everything, doing due diligence takes time and effort, but in the long run, you'll end up feeling safer and more confident if you take the time to do it.

Good luck with any contest you do decide to enter!

X

O'Abby

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Q: What Are You Reading? A: Antiracism Books

Picture

(Racism Scale: Where do you fall? source: https://racismscale.weebly.com/)


"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." –Stephen King

It is vital for writers to read. The best writing advice I have ever received was to read everything I could. One hundred books of what I wanted to write.

It is important in these times to educate ourselves on the meaning of words. What is individual racism? What is systemic racism? Are we using these words correctly? Do we truly understand what these words mean? Click here for more information on racism definitions and explanations

I am still learning, and as a writer, editor, and reader, I read to learn. What are you reading today? Currently on my nightstand are: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism  by Robin DiAngelo, So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo, and Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad.

There are articles online, book lists, and sources available here to find book titles, authors, and more to learn about #WeNeedDiverseBooks and how to be antiracist. Here are a few.

 

The Antiracist Reading List

35 Must-Read Books About Racism

5 Black Children’s Authors and Illustrators You Should Know

A Diverse #SummerReading List For Kids

1000 Black Girl Books Resource Guide

Black Books Matter

AICL’s Best Books of 2018

Revisions to Racism in Books

28 great Black History Month books for kids

24 Children’s Books to Read to Your Kids In Honor Of Black History Month

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

158 Resources to Understand Racism in America

Books by or About People of African Descent

 

Check out OA’s recent blog posts on how you can support #WeNeedDiverseBooks

 

Authors and Videos of Support #WeNeedDiverseBooks 

Support Black Lives Matter


This blog post is part of a series called Q: What Are You Reading? by Suzanna Anderson on Operation Awesome. Please note that this book list is not comprehensive. This list is a starting point, an introduction to Antiracism titles. Suzanna reads a book and usually finds at least ten more books to read. Use this list as inspiration to check out titles at your local library, support your local bookstores with purchases, or wherever you get your books. Please do read, share, and write reviews (if you want to). Comment below what you’ve read and what you’re excited to read next!

What are you reading?