Thursday, June 1, 2023

Dear O'Abby: How should I address an agent in my query?

Dear O'Abby,

I know this is super basic, but I can't seem to find any conclusive answer anywhere, so I'm hoping you can help.  I'm about to start querying, and I'm not sure how I should be addressing the agents I write to.

I mean, I know I should use their name, but do I write to "Ms" or "Mr" or do I use their first name?  I guess I'm kind of old school in that my mother taught me never to use a stranger's first name unless invited to do so, but maybe it's okay these days?

Is there any advice you can give?



Dear Salutations,

My rule of thumb is to always address agents (or anyone else you've having first-time business communications with) the way you'd like to be addressed.  Personally, I'm happy for people to use my first name.  It's in my email address, so they should be able to spell it correctly, and it's my name.  There's much less chance of someone getting that wrong than if they try to address me using an honorific.  Whenever anyone calls me Mrs. I look around for my mother!

You don't want to get this wrong and address an agent as Mr. when they're a Ms. or worse, a Dr.  So unless you're 100% sure which honorific they prefer, I wouldn't use one. 

Basically you just want to get the name right.  There's nothing worse than copying and pasting a query you've just sent to someone else and forgetting to change the name in the greeting.  It's pretty difficult to explain that Esmerelda was a typo and you were actually trying to type Abby...  And check the spelling too.  Some people get really offended if you don't spell their name right.

As long as you make some effort, you should be fine.  Don't address the agent as Dear Sir/Madam or To Whom it May Concern or Dear Agent  - you should at least take the time to find out their name before you query them.

You just need to show that you've made an effort.  And at the end of the day, it's basic courtesy and if you just think about the way you want to be spoken to and us the same language, you'll be fine.

Best of luck with the querying.

X O'Abby

Monday, May 29, 2023

Week #22 – A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #22 – A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Kinsey Millhone, 32, former cop turned private detective in Santa Teresa California [fictional Santa Barbara], investigates the death of prominent divorce lawyer Laurence Fife. His murder eight years earlier was blamed on his wife, Nikki. Upon her release from prison, Nikki hires Kinsey to find the real murderer.

Author Sue Grafton wrote 25 books in the alphabet series, finishing with Y is for Yesterday. She had plans to write Z is for Zero but passed away before beginning that book.

Kinsey Millhone biography

How Sue Grafton helped transform the mystery genre

A conversation with Sue Grafton

The series may be adapted for television

I've read A is for Alibi and probably ten more. They started getting a little too suspenseful for me [I'm a wimp lol]. Have you read any of Sue Grafton's books? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Dear O'Abby: What should I look for in an agent?

Dear O'Abby,

I ready your column last week with interest, but it was very focused on finding a new agent once you've already been agented.  I'm about to venture into the trenches and was wondering if you have any advice for us first-timers?  Like, what should we be looking for in an agent?  And what red flags should we look out for?

Thanks so much!

Warm wishes, 


Dear Digger,

That's a very good question, so thanks for asking!

The first thing you should be looking for is an agent who is genuinely excited and in love with your book.  If they have a laundry list of really big changes they want to make to the story and they don't resound with you, that's probably not going to be a good fit.  You want someone who really understands what you're saying and what you want the story to do.  And to love it, even if it is still a little rough around the edges.

You also want an agent with experience.  Or if they are a newer agent, that they have support from another agent with more experience.  As a first-timer, you need guidance from your agent, and if you're with a new agent who has no back up if she hits something she's unsure about, that's not going to be good for either of you.  New agents can be wonderful and extremely tenacious as they build a list, but they do need someone to back them up when they need it.

If you're a writer who writes across genres and categories, you need an agent who has editor contacts across those.  If the book she signs you for is a YA romance, but you want to write adult horror next, you need to make sure your agent will be able to sell both of these.  And anything else you might decide you want to write in the future.

You probably want to make sure your agent knows how to read contracts well, and how to negotiate them.  Some agencies have in-house legal who can help with that, but a good agent will understand contract language and clauses and know which are good and which have to go, and will have the confidence to negotiate for changes on your behalf.

In terms of red flags, the biggest one would be if an agent asks you for money up front.  Legitimate agents don't do that.  They get paid when you do.  I'd also be wary if they try to point you toward any paid editorial or publishing service that may be affiliated with the agency or an individual agent.  I have heard about this happening and that isn't okay either.

The most important thing is that before you sign with anyone, you take time to talk to them, find out if you are compatible.  It's hard if you're someone who likes a lot of communication and your agent prefers to do a bi-monthly check in.  So talk about things like that up front to make sure you're both comfortable with the way the relationship is going to work.  Remember, this person is going to be working with you to help you build a career.  You don't work for an agent; an agent works for you and with you.  It's a partnership.

Hope that helps!  And good luck with your querying.

X O'Abby

Monday, May 22, 2023

Week #21 – The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #21 – The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit, also called There and Back Again, was published in 1937. It was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and awarded a prize for best juvenile fiction from the New York Herald Tribune. It is one of the best-selling books of all time with over 100 million copies sold.

Bilbo Baggins, a homebody hobbit from Middle Earth, is “volunteered” by the wizard Gandalf to join thirteen dwarves on a quest to reclaim the dwarves' home and treasure from the dragon Smaug.

Prequel to Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is more of a children’s book. The Lord of the Rings is for teens. All of the movies are more for teens.

Plot summary [SPOILERS]

Why read The Hobbit?

Middle Earth Blog

The Hobbit movie from 2012

The Lord of the Rings from 2001

How to watch The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings movies in order

Have you read any of these books and/or seen the movies? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Dear O'Abby: What happens if my agency drops me?

Dear O'Abby,

There's been a whole lot of stuff flying around social media this week about a bunch of authors being dropped by their agency after an agent left.  It sounds like an awful situation to be in, and I'm wondering if you have any advice.  I'm not personally in this situation myself - I'm not even agented yet - but this news has brought it home to me just how vulnerable authors are, even when they have managed to get representation.  

How do you deal with something like this?



Dear Vulnerable,

I too have been reading this news and feeling absolutely dreadful for those authors (and the agent in question too, to be honest).  A similar thing happened to me several years ago so I know just how devastating it is to suddenly find yourself adrift, with no agent and no time to prepare for that.  Particularly when you have a book out with editors, or just about to go out.

But, it isn't the end of the world, even if it does feel that way at the time.  Remember, your work is good enough that you got an agent in the first place and that's an encouraging sign.  Unless you're feeling so bruised and disillusioned about your agent experience (or your book is held up somewhere in submission hell with your old agent/agency) there's no reason why you can't jump right back into the query trenches.  If you're lucky, you will have done some edits with your agent and your book will be in an even better place than it was when you first queried it.  Most agents seem to be using Query Manager for queries these days and the form usually asks if you have been agented before.  Check yes and be proud of it, regardless how it ended.

You've done this before and now you've had some experience working with an agent, you probably have a much better idea what you are looking for in an agent.  Use this knowledge to your advantage when you're researching agents and when you have the call.  You know what works for you and what doesn't, so don't compromise.  You also have a far better idea what you want to ask this time around, so make sure you do that too.

If you are feeling too broken to dive back into the trenches, you don't have to right away or at all.  I know I was utterly traumatised by my agent experience and have only recently begun to feel ready to go back into that world after 6 years.  But having an agent isn't the only road to take.  You can self publish if you feel like that might be a good option for you or submit to a small/medium press that doesn't require an agent.  Always remember that it's better to have no agent than a bad one.  

It's your career and your work so you need to make sure whatever choice you make is right for you and maybe being agented isn't it.  It's not for everyone.  But if you do decide to go out again, my friend Dahlia has been through this too and has some very helpful advice here.

Authors can be vulnerable, but if you do your due diligence and make sure you get any contracts looked over by a good lawyer, you should be able to avoid some pitfalls.  

Hope that helps!

X O'Abby

Monday, May 15, 2023

Week #20 – The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #20 – The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his young son journey on foot across the ash-covered United States toward the sea, several years after a cataclysm destroys all life except for a few humans.

This book won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 2007.

It was made into a film in 2009
Apocalypse Peaks, Antarctica

Greatest apocalypse novels

Greatest apocalypse movies

I like my entertainment more upbeat and positive. Do you read post-apocalypse books or watch those types of movies? Tell us in the comments!


Friday, May 12, 2023

Query Friday: Champagne Rejections

 Champagne Toast Type Fragrance Oil

Champagne rejections.

You may have heard the term floating around and wondered what they were, or even received a few yourself. 

A champagne rejections is when you receive a rejection that is full of praise for your work, but isn't an offer. The fact that someone took the time to give you feedback, had positive things to say, or ended the rejection with "I'm sure another agent will feel differently" or "If this doesn't find an agent I'd love to see your next project" is definitely something to celebrate.

But for some of us the close, but not close enough is harder to take. It's hard not to know what you have missed when all the comments are glowing.

If you can take this as a sign of progress. You have work worthy of fighting for. Now you just have to find the right champion.

Happy writing!


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Dear O'Abby: Can a journalist/novelist write for film and TV while the WGA is on strike?

Dear O'Abby,

A friend of mine who works in film and TV just contacted me to see if I would be interested in doing some screenwriting.  It's not something I've ever done before - I'm a journalist by trade and write novels under a pseudonym in my spare time - but is something I've always been interested in exploring.  

I'm very aware that the WGA is on strike and I'm pretty sure this is why my friend has approached me.  I'm not a guild member, but I support what the writers are striking for.  Would it be okay for me to write for film and/or TV while the guild is on strike?



Dear Unsure,

The short answer here is no.

I mean, you can, of course, but there will be implications that might damage your career forever.  

Basically, if you decide to go ahead and do some work in this area while the guild is on strike, you'd be considered a scab.  The WGA is a powerful union and if you cross the picket lines and do work for a studio or independent producer at this time, you're likely to get blacklisted.  The means you will never get the opportunity to join the union, even if you do manage to break into screenwriting at some later date.

In addition, if you're blacklisted, even if a studio wants to adapt one of your novels for the screen, the WGA might block that from happening.  Even if you write your novels under a pseudonym and use a different name for any screenwriting you might do..

So, my advice would be to say no to your friend and focus on your journalistic work and your novels for now.  Once the strike is over, you can reach out to your friend again and offer your services.  If  they were only interested while other writers were striking, then I think you know what kind of friend this is!

Hope that helps.

X O'Abby

Monday, May 8, 2023

Week #19 – The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #19 – The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Michael “Mickey” Haller is a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles County who doesn't have a formal office but works out of a Lincoln Town Car. 

Most of his clients are drug dealers and gangsters, but he takes on the case against a wealthy Los Angeles realtor, Louis Roulet, accused of assault and attempted murder.

The book was made into a movie in 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer series was made into a TV series in 2022

A Lincoln Town Car is a full size luxury car. I found several sites dedicated to helping you turn your car into a mobile office

I drive a 10yo Kia Rio.

2013 Kia Rio

It's not the the smallest street-legal vehicle in the US.


But it's small just the same. I love this car because it has been reliable over the past 190,000 miles, gets 35+ mpg, and it's small enough that I can park it almost anywhere, even when I drive to crowded downtown Los Angeles. 

I don’t think I could ever use it as a mobile office!

What about you? What kind of car do you drive? Do you use it as an office? Tell us in the comments!


Monday, May 1, 2023

#AtoZChallenge 2023 #Reflections of the Operation Awesome Team

Operation Awesome 2023 #AtoZChallenge theme is interviews of established authors

#AtoZChallenge 2023 Reflections

Reflections of the Operation Awesome Team

J: Another year in the books. I really loved this theme. It was great to show off these authors. I wish some giveaways had gotten more entries, but I think the new Twitter algorithm is messing with the normal shares. (Thanks, Mr. Musk.) But honestly, it was just really great to promote all this talent. And it was fun to visit some other bloggers, who hopefully will see all that our magnificent site has to offer to writers in every stage (and readers as well).

The Debut Author spotlight will soon return. Please, if you know someone publishing a book for the first time this year, have them reach out to me. @JLenniDorner on Twitter 

Kate: It's been a blast this year!  So much fun to be able to showcase some of my writing besties and their work as well as meeting some new authors I didn't know so well before.  And what a bunch of creative bloggers there are out there!  I had such a great time going around and visiting other A to Zers and seeing what they were doing.

Dena: Lots of fun this year! It was fun seeing the themes of other AtoZ bloggers. And I loved showcasing some excellent authors here at OA and I hope YOU, our blog readers, found some awesome new authors and books to read. Let us know in the comments!

Suzanna: The theme this year is one of my favorites. I absolutely love reading and interviewing writers for their perspectives. It's amazing to read what inspires people to write stories. So many wonderful ideas to read and write! I've definitely increased my To Read list this month. Did you have a favorite interview this month?

Brandy: I really loved the theme this year! It has been a long time goal of mine to connect more with the writing community and interviewing these talented authors was such a fun way to accomplish that! I look forward to reading their work. In addition visiting other blogs was also super fun and a great way to discover more talent both in and out of the field of writing!

#AtoZChallenge 2023 Winner

Giveaways that are active this week yet:

(Facebook Log In might not work due to a Rafflecopter error.) S is for Victoria Strauss ~ Signed copies of Passion Blue and Color Song!   V is for Kari Veenstra ~ Signed copy of The Rescuer!  W is for K.M. Weiland ~ $20 (USD) Giftcard

Sunday, April 30, 2023

#AtoZChallenge Z is for Sarah Zama #freebook

Operation Awesome 2023 #AtoZChallenge theme is interviews of established authors

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter Z

Sarah Zama:

1- Where do you get ideas for your stories?

Oh my goodness, I always dread this question!
Ideas can come from anything, really. Even a conversation I overheard on the bus (public transportation is fantastic for finding ideas!). Then I manipulate it until it becomes mine, by which I mean it expresses themes that are close to my heart and is set in a place I love.
But really, anything can be the first sparkle: a conversation I hear, an article I read, a story I read, a song I listen to, TV commercials. Anything.

2- In what category/genre do you write? Why?

I'm a dieselpunk author. This means that I write speculative stories set in what we call the diesel-era, which goes from the late 1910s to the very early 1950s.
My favourite decade, though, is the 1920s. All my stories are now set in the 1920s.
I say 'now' because I've always written fantasy stories that, for a long time, were classic, more or less epic, fantasy stories set in a world that resembled the European Middle Ages but with magic.
Yet I've always been into history (my favourite subject since when I was in elementary school), and so I soon started to prefer fantasy stories that were set in a more historical environment rather than total invention.
How did I come to write historical fantasy set in the 1920s?
In addition to my love of history, I got into mythology very early on. First, Roman and Greek mythologies, and then different mythologies across the world.
Also, I was imprinted by 1930s black-and-white mystery movies, so to speak. It was entirely my grandma's fault. When I was a kid in the 1970s, it was still very common to see these old movies on tv. My grandma was very much into them. I ended up watching them with her, and soon, I started to love them too. I blame this for my love of the era and for Art Deco!
It was probably all fated to come together in the end.

3- What part of one of your stories was the most fun to write? The most challenging? (And which book/s are those in?)

I love writing crowded scenes with many people taking action simultaneously. It's like choreographing a dance. I love it.
My favourite part that I wrote in a story that was fun but also challenging is in a book that, unfortunately, isn't published yet. It's a fight scene set in a speakeasy where some 10 characters are involved, of which 8 are major characters, and 2 are POV characters.
To me, these kinds of scenes are fun to write because I want to know what everyone is doing and try to keep track of it for the reader. It usually results in interesting timeline manipulation and character introspection. It's like a puzzle where everything has to click into place. I enjoy that.

4- Would you please, in 160 characters (not words) or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Don't fall in love with your first draft. Hopefully, nothing will remain of it in the final work! Have fun writing it and explore freely. The messier, the better!

5- What got you interested in the 1920s time period? How do you do research for this period?

Oops! I think I've already answered the first question.
As for how how research that time: mostly on books and primary sources.
I may do swift research online to get a feeling for what I'm researching - be that the Weimar Kabaret or the Chicago mob. But once I get a feel for it, I start looking for books on the subject.
The web is really good for finding quick pieces of information that show a direction, but f we keep at it, we'll keep coming up with the same information over and over again. This is because search engines will only show us what we're looking for and because nobody gives away detailed information on anything for free.
A book, however, is a different beast. It will give you comprehensive information on a subject, even (and this is very important) about things you never thought of. And because they are structured in a way to give you a global understanding of the subject, not a quick answer to a question.
Once this passage is done, we can go back to the internet and search for very, very specific pieces of information that we have learned about in the books. And sometimes, we're lucky enough to find something.
I'm also lucky enough to study a time when different media already existed. You can't imagine how many silent movies I watched! But also I read novels written in the 1920s, and I love magazines from the era.
It's a slow process, but I think that it builds a stronger awareness of the subject.

6- What do you love and hate most about being a published author?

Sharing my stories is definitely what I love the most. Seeing how readers care for my characters the same way I do.
But I'm a self-published author, which means that everything is on me, including promotion. I don't hate promotion. I think it can be fun. But it's its own job. And keeping track of all the changes in the field (both on the different platforms and the best practices), which sometimes feels like happening daily, is something I'd very gladly leave to someone else.

7- Do you publish traditional, self, hybrid, other? Why?

As I've mentioned, I've self-published so far because that's the most autonomous way to go.
Would I like to try something else? Yes!
I'd like to be published traditionally, of course, but to be honest, I love even more the idea of being a hybrid author. There are projects that are better suited to be self-published and others that are better suited for a more traditional publication. I'd love to be able to choose what route to go for every single project.
Not there yet. But I hope that one day...

8- You mentioned that you don't hate promotion when lots of authors do. How's that?

Because I can choose to take promotion as another story. I can choose to promote my book with integrity without feeling salesy and sleazy. Some people - even some authors - do act salesy and sleazy, but that's snot the only way to go.
When we take promotion as a story, and we tell that story as we do all our others, it becomes a lot more comfortable and even fun!

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

I believe stories I the power of healing. Have you ever read a story that, in some way, healed you?

10- If they have a specific story, they want to promote a question regarding that. Ex. Which book would you suggest readers start with?

I'd suggest Sea Phantom, which is a short story set in 1921 Milan.
All my 1920s stories are set in the same universe, so Sea Phantom, though short, has the magic, the themes and the kind of characters that you'll find in all my stories. And what's best, you can download it free here -
This is also a story very close to my heart because, a the moment, it's the only one set in my own country, Italy. I actually initially thought about setting it in my own town, Verona, but then I thought a more international setting, like Milan, would have served the story better. Still, you never know. One day...

#AtoZChallenge 2023
Please check out the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge
#AtoZChallenge 2023

Saturday, April 29, 2023

#AtoZChallenge Y is for Allyson Lindt #giveaway

Operation Awesome 2023 #AtoZChallenge theme is interviews of established authors

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter Y

Established Author Name: Allyson Lindt

1- You are incredibly prolific as an author with five or six new releases per year at least.  How do you do it?

I’ve been trying to think of a good answer to this question since I read it. I feel like a lot of people will be looking for a tip, or a hint, or a “do this, and you can write six or more books a year too.”

I don’t have an answer like that. If you’re familiar with Clifton Strengths, I’m a #1 Adaptability and a #2 Ideation… Basically, any joke you’ve ever heard about getting distracted and chasing idea squirrels? That’s me. I have the ideas. I chase the squirrels. I don’t like to let them go… Until I’ve discovered their story and then it’s time to move on.

(I also figured out what time of day I write best, and I make sure I give myself that time as often as possible. And I have cats, not human children. And I have a work from home day job with a lot of flexibility. And…)

2- In what category/genre do you write? Why? 

I write high heat contemporary and paranormal polyamorous romance (menage/RH). The contemporary romance stories let me tell light, sweet-hot stories, which makes my heart happy. The paranormal romance lets me tell angsty, high action stories, which makes my imagination happy. And they tend to have more than 2 people involved with each other because I love exploring the depth and complexities of more than two people falling in love.

3- What part of one of your stories was the most fun to write? The most challenging? (And which book/s are those in?)

I’m moving up on my 10 year publishing anniversary and I was thinking about this very thing. That’s a tough call, because when I’m in a book, it’s almost always my favorite at the time, except when I hit the parts where I swear it’s never been harder to write…

Funnest was probably Roll Against Trust. It was the first threesome I ever wrote. I wanted to write erotic romance and just spill out what was in my head, and I did. No restrictions. No expectations. Just fun. The opening scene, where the three friends are playing D&D that turns sexy, was so much fun to write.

Most challenging… In my book Valkyrie Reborn, there’s a flashback scene where the main character is dealing with depression, and it gets serious (trying to not be triggering, but it does get dark and descriptive). I reached deep emotionally for that scene. I still have readers tell me that one scene gives them chills.

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

Finish the book. Nothing else happens if you don’t finish the book. 

5- What interests do you have outside of writing?

Reading (duh ;). Discovering feel-good TV shows and binge-watching again and again. Sewing. I used to make cosplays professionally. And my most recent hobby is resin casting.  

6- What do you love and hate most about being a published author?

I love that I get to keep telling stories, and that people are reading them. Relating to them. Opposite side of that coin, it’s impossible to ignore that there’s an expectation from what I write. I still write mostly what I want, but there’s always a whisper of “there are guidelines you know…” Though I don’t hate that so much as it makes me a little sad. 

7- Do you publish traditional, self, hybrid, other? Why?

I started off traditionally published, but I moved to self-published pretty quickly, and now I’m completely self-published. I didn’t think I would be one of those authors who needed control over the project from start to finish, but I am. I want to be the one to pick my editor, my cover designer, my artwork, my release schedule, my sales schedule, my writing schedule… I want to be the person in charge of that. 

8- What question are you dying to answer? 
Q: What’s the strangest and/or the most unique job you’ve ever had?
A: I sold vacuum cleaners door to door. I went on one sales call, and sold 1 vacuum, and quit while I was ahead.

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

I want to ask the same question I answered—what’s the most unique and/or strange job you’ve ever had?

10- Which of your books would you suggest readers start with?  Or since I know you always have something new coming out, what should readers look out for?  Or both...

If you’re looking for a  great introduction to my contemporary menage, you should check out Seduction Games. It’s fun, it’s geeky, it’s a quick read, and it’s free on retailers.

As for my paranormal… Some author friends and I got together and each of us wrote a book in my Legacy world. New Valkyries are being created, and each of us wrote a book around these new, fierce warriors. My book, Valkyrie Destined, is the first book in the multi-author series, and it’s a great introduction to my fantasy writing, and the world I’ve created.

Allyson has a copy of Seduction Games to give away (open internationally).  Just answer her question about the most unique job you've ever had to go into the draw.

#AtoZChallenge 2023
Please check out the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge
#AtoZChallenge 2023

Friday, April 28, 2023

#AtoZChallenge X is for Sherry Ellis' setting in Xi'an #giveaway

Operation Awesome 2023 #AtoZChallenge theme is interviews of established authors

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter X

Established Author Name: Sherry Ellis

1- What inspired you to use Xi'an, China for a book setting, and what do you love most about that place?
#AtoZChallenge X is for Sherry Ellis' setting in Xi'an #giveaway

You’ve probably heard the expression, “You can’t dig a hole to China.” In my book, Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China I wanted to challenge this notion and imagine what would happen if you could. Xi’an, China is the home of the Terracotta Warriors, the army the first Emperor of China built to protect his tomb. Imagine being a kid, digging a hole, and ending up where life-like stone warriors are all lined up with their weapons. Wow! Plus, I think the history associated with Xi’an is fascinating.

2- In what category/genre do you write? Why?

I write children’s books. Mostly because I love sharing stories with them. Having kids sit on your lap or gather around while you share a picture book or chapter book is the best. And if it’s a story you wrote, that’s icing on the cake. The Bubba and Squirt books I’ve written have an educational side to them, too, which appeals to the teacher in me. Bottom line is I love working with kids.
#AtoZChallenge X is for Sherry Ellis' setting in Xi'an #giveaway

3- What part of one of your stories was the most fun to write? The most challenging?

I had a blast coming up with all the crazy things the elephant does in my book, Don’t Feed the Elephant. He makes cotton candy wigs, hurls hamburgers like frisbees, and jumps rope with spaghetti noodles. Can you imagine such a crazy pachyderm? The most difficult was creating the rhymes for my book, Ten Zany Birds. Rhyming properly isn’t easy!

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

Read your manuscript out loud. This lets you see if you have good rhythm and flow.

5- Great Poetry Reading Day is observed on April 28, 2023. What is a great poem to share with children?

"Life Doesn't Frighten Me" by Maya Angelou. It’s a great poem to help kids be brave if something scary comes along.

6- What do you love and hate most about being a published author?

I love when people who read my books say that they enjoy them. Hate is a strong word, so I’ll say I don’t like that it’s so challenging to sell a significant number of books. It’s a lot of work for little pay (for most of us). I guess the reason we do it is because we love to write stories.
#AtoZChallenge X is for Sherry Ellis' setting in Xi'an #giveaway

7- Do you publish traditional, self, hybrid, other? Why?

Hybrid. There are benefits to both. Traditional publishing means you have a publisher paying the cost of producing the book and handling some of the marketing. The trade-off is that you don’t get as much in royalties. Self-publishing gives you more control and more cash per book sold. Since it’s harder to market by yourself, I lean more toward traditional publishing whenever possible.

8- What question are you dying to answer?

How long did it take you to write Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China?
Ten years!

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

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

10- What's coming up for Bubba and Squirt?

Later this year, a new Bubba and Squirt story will be released: Bubba and Squirt’s City of Bones. This one will be set in Paris, France. If you want to start at the beginning of the series, read Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China.


Sherry will give a copy of the anthology, Voyagers, in which a short Bubba and Squirt story is published. It also features many other Dancing Lemur Press authors, and will mail it anywhere.
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#AtoZChallenge 2023
Please check out the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge
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Thursday, April 27, 2023

#AtoZChallenge - W is for K.M. Weiland

Operation Awesome 2023 #AtoZChallenge theme is interviews of established authors

K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the award-winning and internationally-published author of Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, Creating Character Arcs, and Writing Your Story’s Theme. She writes historical and speculative fiction and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

1- What made you decide you wanted to be an author?

I have told myself stories for as long as I can remember. At a certain point, when I was about twelve, I decided one of the stories I’d come up with was so great I wanted to write it down to make sure I would never forget it. At that point, I discovered I enjoyed the act of writing as much as I did the act of storytelling.

2- In what category/genre do you write? Why?

I write both historical and fantasy stories—and many mashups in between. My last story was a gaslamp fantasy, about a superhero in 1820 London.

3- What part of one of your stories was the most fun to write? The most challenging? (And which book/s are those in?)

Dialogue is always my favorite. If both characters have the snark going on, that’s always super fun. There was a lot of that in my gaslamp book Wayfarer. The main character sorted of adpted a nine-year-old little girl pickpocket who never let him get away with anything. She was always a blast to write.

For me, antagonists have always been challenging. I get bored if the protagonist isn’t onscreen—so usually I try to avoid antagonist POVs.

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

When including a plot twist, make sure its development is so entertaining readers will want to read it again, with even MORE enthusiasm, AFTER they know the twist.

5- Do you work on more than one book at a time? Why or why not?

Short answer is no. I will occasionally write and edit two different books simultaneously. I will also sometimes write a fiction book and a non-fiction book at the same time. But I have my hands plenty full with just one novel at a time.

6- What do you love and hate most about being a published author?

I think the best is feeling like what you’re sharing matters to other people—that you’re offering something that is impacting their lives for the better, even if it’s just distracting them from a crummy day.

Hardest part is definitely negative reviews. I don’t read them anymore if I can help it.

7- Do you publish traditional, self, hybrid, other? Why?

I have one traditionally published book, from many moons ago, and all of my international translations have been traditionally published, if you want to count them. But primarily, I am an independent publisher.

8- What question are you dying to answer for our blog (about your writing, life, or even a fun fact)? What's the question and then answer.

Haha. Honestly, that question just makes me want to smile mysteriously. :p

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

How do you think your earliest memory might symbolize the themes of your life so far?

10- For our blog readers who haven't read anything by you, which of your books would you suggest they start with?

If you’re interested in writing advice, I recommend my book Creating Character Arcs. (If you’re going to read them all, then I’d say start with Outlining Your Novel and read the rest in the order they were published, since they lead one into the other. But if you’re only going to read one, Creating Character Arcs is the most comprehensive.)

If you’re interested in fiction, I recommend my most recent book Wayfarer, which is a jolly good romp through the Dickensian underbelly of a slightly fantastical Georgian London.

K.M.Weiland is raffling off a $20 Amazon gift card for one lucky Operation Awesome blog reader.  To enter:

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#AtoZChallenge 2023
Please check out the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge
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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

#AtoZChallenge - V is for Kari Veenstra #giveaway

Operation Awesome 2023 #AtoZChallenge theme is interviews of established authors

Kari Veenstra 

Kari grew up climbing trees and shooting arrows in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific. After graduating high school, she stuffed her belongings into one small suitcase and traveled to America for college where she developed her passion for writing. A journalism internship in Washington, D.C. led to a successful copywriting career until Kari switched to writing fiction so she could spend more time with her kids. Her debut novel The Rescuer was published Feb, 2020.

1- What made you decide you wanted to be an author?

I started writing stories as a teenager when I ran out of books of my own to read in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. I decided I wanted to be an author when I realized the stories that I write fill a current gap in the industry--young YA with male protagonists, high stakes action, and zero-to-limited romance.

2- In what category/genre do you write? Why?

I write Young Adult science fiction and fantasy. Much of my writing also has a dystopian bend. I'm drawn to the genre because of the high degree of creativity afforded. I love creating exciting new worlds with a variety of world-specific challenges, then filling them with universal problems and truths.

3- What part of one of your stories was the most fun to write? The most challenging? (And which book/s are those in?)

One of the funnest scenes to write in The Rescuer (YA SF) was an action scene featuring a hair-raising intrusion into a flight academy through a high-tech mechanical obstacle course. Visualizing this scene and describing all the moving pieces took a lot of work, but I really enjoyed exploring this element of the world. One of the most challenging scenes to write (also featured in The Rescuer) was a heart-felt moment where my main character, Prok Zandin, is forced to confront the ghosts of his past and the grief he still carries over the death of his mother for which he feels responsible.

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

I used to keep my writing close to my chest, afraid to share it with anyone, afraid it was terrible. Only when I got brave enough to show it to others, did I start going places. #WriteTip - Be bold.

5- Do you work on more than one book at a time? Why or why not?

I get ideas for more than one book at a time, but I file them away because I can only draft one story at a time. I like to think that I pour my heart and soul into that given story, making it hard to divide my creativity and concentration between multiple pieces.

6- What do you love and hate most about being a published author?

I love the fact that I AM a published author. It's such a feeling of pride and accomplishment to have created something from start to finish that a publisher acquired and put out for readers. Having readers read and love my work is a joy like no other. The thing I hate the most about being a published author is fans asking when my next book is coming out, haha! I am SO grateful for their support, but the guilt can get overwhelming when my answer is consistently "I'm not sure, but hopefully soon." It's a lot of pressure.

7- Do you publish traditional, self, hybrid, other? Why?

My debut novel was published traditionally by a small press in 2020. Even though that publisher is no longer operating and I own all the rights to my books, I would still love to be published traditionally. One of my dreams is to get an agent and a publishing deal at a stable house. There's nothing wrong with the other options, but this is the path that personally appeals to me. I see it as a bit of a challenge to write something that gets the attention of the "gatekeepers."

8- What question are you dying to answer?

* Question: Who is your favorite character in your novels?

* Answer: Isn't that like asking a parent to pick a favorite child? If I am forced to choose, I would have to say that Mavrick Denly, the arrogant, pretentious bully heavily featured in the Krador Kronicles would be my favorite. I like how he's morally gray, yet still operates under some sort of *code* that only he understands. He's brutal and mean, but somehow still ends up fighting for the right side of things. He has some deep secrets and I can't wait to write more of his story and reveal them to my readers.

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

What book have you read recently (or not-so recently) that really stuck with you by challenging or changing your worldview?

10- For our blog readers who haven't read anything by you, which of your books would you suggest they start with?

I currently have one novel, The Rescuer - Book 1 of the Krador Kronicles. It features a plucky underdog in a dystopian underwater world who risks his one shot at a better future to find and rescue a missing friend. It's not available for sale through traditional methods, but readers who are interested in it can purchase it via Paypal on my website, or message me for a signed author copy. The Rescuer – Story with Kari Veenstra

Kari would love to do a giveaway - A signed copy of her debut novel The Rescuer! Winner's choice of paperback or hardcover.

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#AtoZChallenge 2023
Please check out the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge
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Tuesday, April 25, 2023

#AtoZChallenge U is for Juliana Brandt

Operation Awesome 2023 #AtoZChallenge theme is interviews of established authors

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter U

Established Author Name: Juliana Brandt

1- I know you had a long journey to publication.  What kept you going on that journey?

The road to publication was very long for me! I wrote ten books before my first one, The Wolf of Cape Fen, was published. That journey very tiring and stressful, but through it all, I always loved writing. I was always very compelled to write books and to learn more about storytelling as an art. I also made incredible friends and built a solid community. It was very helpful to be surrounded by people who loved the same thing I did! 

2- In what category/genre do you write? Why?

I write Middle Grade fantasy stories! There's something spectacular's whimsical and magical about writing for middle grade readers. They're much more clever than some people give them credit for which means authors are able to write complex stories for them. They also still believe in magic in a way adults don't. This allows writers to create worlds and universe they might not be able to for another age category.

3- What part of one of your stories was the most fun to write? The most challenging? (And which book/s are those in?)

Oh gosh, each of my books were a lot of fun to write. The Wolf of Cape Fen has a lot of fairytale vibes though that I adored including. My third book, Monsters in the Mist, has more serious themes than my other stories. I discuss in that book the ways people love us - from people who love us kindly to people who 'love' us cruelly. Those themes were very important to me to include, but I had to be very careful while including them.

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

Make mistakes and take risks in your writing. The exploration process is very important to finding the heart of your story. Writing the wrong thing is just as important as writing the right thing! 

5- What interests do you have outside of writing?

Anything outdoors. I find a lot of inspiration in being in the outside world. Most days can find me taking a walk outside. Summers are spent hiking while winters are spent snowshoeing. I also thoroughly enjoy playing the piano.

6- What do you love and hate most about being a published author?

I hate that I never seem to have enough time to write! But I love that I'm able to talk about my writing more freely with people. Before being published, I did a terrible job of talking honestly about my writing--it was so hard for me to talk about it! Now though, I'm able to discuss my stories more comfortably with people.

7- Do you publish traditional, self, hybrid, other? Why?

I'm traditionally published. All routes of publishing are wonderful, and I'm so glad society is much more accepting of the varities of publishing and the places we can find books. It means that a wider array of books are accessible to people. I personally went with traditional publishing, because my day job as a teacher means I don't have the time to dedicate to all of the work that goes in hand with self-published books! I hope to explore this option more in the future though.

8- What question are you dying to answer?

"Why do you enjoy writing books that include magic?" 

I've always gravitated toward writing books that include magic because it allows a very unique avenue to explore the themes of a book. I often find that magic systems are a wonderful way authors can zoom in on a theme in a story, especially on the way a theme will impact the characters of the world they've created.

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

Do you prefer reading standalone books or series? If you have a favorite, please include the recommendation!

10- Which of your books would you recommend readers start with?

Each of my books are standalone. If you're interested in fairytale vibes, start with The Wolf of Cape Fen. If you're on the hunt for spookiness and thrilling adventure, turn to Monsters in the Mist. If you're looking for a magical family story set in the mountains, go grab A Wilder Magic!