Monday, July 15, 2019

Let's talk more about horror books!

Our Pass Or Pages query contest for July just ended.  The genre this time was YA Horror.
Below are some YA and Adult horror books.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The Fear Street series by RL Stine

Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Shining by Stephen King
World War Z by Max Brooks
Slade House by David Mitchell

I write MG.  I read MG and cozy mystery.  I am NOT a fan of horror.  Nightmares aren't my thing.  But from the above list, I've read World War Z and Slade House.  I enjoyed World War Z and didn't think it was scary.
Zombie from Night of the Living Dead
Slade House, on the other hand, was REALLY creepy.  I'm not sorry I read it, because the way the author created a pervasive creepy and foreboding tone was awesome and very instructive, but I'm NOT interested in reading it again.  Yikes!
Abandoned and creepy house #1
Abandoned and creepy house #2
Abandoned and creepy house #3
Have you read any of these books?  Did you think they were scary or creepy?  Or is there one not listed here that you want to talk about?  Which abandoned and creepy house photo do you think is the most creepy?  Please leave a comment!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Dear O'Abby - Querying when I've already had an agent

Dear O'Abby,

Three years ago the agent I'd been working with left agenting and passed me and my books over to one of her colleagues.  Said colleague wasn't really interested in the genre I primarily write, so the decision was mutually made for us to part ways.  Since then, I've been working with a small press and have published four novels with them.

Now I've finished a new book, and I want a shot at bigger sales and better distribution than I've been getting with the small press.  So it's time to start looking for a new agent.  Is there any advice you can give me about querying when you've already had an agent?  And already have books out there?


Old Hand

Dear Old Hand,

The best thing to do in this situation is to be completely honest.  Obviously in a query letter you don't have a lot of space to go into detail, but there is room for you to mention your small press books and the fact you have been agented previously.  Just a single line like "having parted amicably from my previous agent, I'm seeking new representation for Shiny New Book," would be enough.  You can explain the situation in more detail if the agent is interested and you have a call to talk about the book and her vision for it.

You're actually in a better position than most querying writers in that you already have experience with an agent and have probably figured out what you liked and didn't like about the experience.  You will have learned what you expect and want in an agent and can now narrow your list of potential agents accordingly.

Do your research with that in mind.  Was your previous agent slower to respond to emails than you liked?  Did she offer helpful editorial feedback or did you feel like she was trying to make your book something different to what you intended it to be?  Was she upfront about where she was subbing your work and the responses to it?  Did she send you that feedback or was she reticent to do so, even when you said you wanted to see it, warts and all?  Did you feel like she truly loved your work? Are you planning to keep writing books like the one you're querying or do you have ideas for books in other categories or genres?

Query with these things in mind, and when you have the call, ask the questions that will help you decide if this is the right agent for you based on what you already know about your preferences.

You also have a track record with publishing so understand about deadlines, and edits and dealing with editors whose ideas might not gel 100% with your own.  Not to mention you've done this before, so will be no stranger to rejection.  Knowing that you are resilient enough to pick yourself up after rejections or bad reviews or poor sales is something an agent will appreciate.  And seeing that you still have the drive to keep writing and knocking on publishing's door after all that is also a plus for you.

So from my perspective, you're in a very strong position right now.  Go forth and query. And good luck.

X O'Abby

Monday, July 8, 2019

July 2019 Pass or Pages Entry Form

We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for YA Horror. Any entry not falling under that umbrella will be deleted. The entry window closes on Friday, July 12 at 6 p.m. Eastern.

The form will not allow you to show italics or other formatting, but if your entry is chosen you'll have time to let us know of any formatting you need fixed.

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Dear O'Abby - I want to kill my alter-ego

Dear O'Abby,

I write under two names - one for romance and one for YA.  My romance books sell way better, and the name I publish YA under is consistently misspelled and leads people to another author whose name is spelled that way.  So I want to kill off that author name and focus all my energy on the other one.  

Do you have any advice on how to do this? I have an active social media presence under both names and would really like to keep my followers if possible.

X Renamed

Dear Renamed,

It really depends on what you want.  It's entirely possible for you to just stop doing anything with the YA author name.  Leave your website there for people who are interested in your YA books, but don't post on social media accounts with that name and let the whole thing go dormant.  Then you have the option of bringing this pen name back to life if you ever have the urge to write another YA.

Alternatively, if your YA books fit the author brand you've created for your romance books (e.g. your YA books are also romantic) you could re-publish them under your other name and include them in a separate section on your romance author website and delete the other site entirely.  If re-publishing isn't possible, you can still include them and just note those books were published under the name X.

In terms of social media, it may not be possible to keep all your followers if you have separate accounts for each author name and they have their own, distinct group of followers.

It is possible to merge Facebook pages, so if you think the audiences on both pages won't mind, you could merge your two pages into one.  Might be worth letting your followers know beforehand though, so the decision is in their hands.

You can't merge Twitter or Instagram accounts, so if you're active there, you will need to decide which account to stay active on, and which to leave dormant.  If your YA name has more followers, maybe change the name on this account and start posting content that you would previously have posted on the other account and see if that negatively affects your follower numbers.

It's going to be a bit of work, and it requires you to be consistent, but it is possible for you to leave that old pen name to retire.  You don't need to kill them off in any violent way, just leave them to fade into obscurity while your other author brand takes the spotlight.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Sam Hawk's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

New Boy at the Academy by Sam Hawk

I'm excited to introduce you to today's debut author. He's a friend of former OA member Jaime Olin and an Army veteran. Please welcome Sam Hawk!

1- Thank you for your service. As an Army Vet, how will you spend Independence day?

I don’t have any specific plans for Independence Day. I don’t have anything super patriotic to do. I’m going to hang out with my friend Justin and maybe drink a good beer or three. But frankly, it’s way too hot in Dallas to stand outside and watch fireworks. Now that I think about it, Justin is really cute so maybe I’ll pull out my medals and try to impress him.

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

Find a writing group. They will boost you and keep you going. Mine believed in this work even when I didn’t. I would never have finished New Boy without them.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

In 1978, my high school English teacher, Phyllis Davis, told me that I was a good writer. It was the first time I’d ever heard that or considered that it might be true. I wish I could say that I went home and started writing embarrassing teenage poetry, but instead I spent the next several decades too paralyzed with self-doubt to put pen to paper. Who was I to think I could be a writer? I was just another liberal arts major who thought he had a book in him. One day, probably ten years ago, I was having a heart-to-heart with my friend Jill who has a knack for getting the truth out of people. I found myself telling her that I had a secret desire to be a writer and she said I should just take a writing class. I thought I could do that. When I got home that day, there was a flyer in the mail from a non-profit writer’s co-op offering beginning writing classes. I thought “Got it, God. Could you be a little more obvious?” It was almost spooky. I signed up for the class and that’s where I found my writing group, Jaime and Patti. I was off.
My first writing assignment was a paragraph in the voice of the opposite gender. I instantly hit on the idea of an inner monologue of a young woman going through the swimsuit competition at the Miss Texas pageant. You see, in addition to being a butch Army vet, I’m also a super-gay pageant queen. I expanded this into a short story called Pageant Girl which was a finalist in the Saints and Sinner’s short story competition in New Orleans in 2015 and they invited me to come to the festival and do a reading. That was a huge thrill and I finally had to admit to myself that I was a writer and I’m actually pretty good.

4- Why did you decide to set your book during the Reagan Era?

New Boy at the Academy began as an essay about my own high school experiences as a deeply closeted gay boy at a private Christian academy in a town of 3,000 people in South Carolina. Seriously. But I quickly realized that, if I created a fictional alter ego, he could have a much more interesting time in high school than I did. He could have a freaking boyfriend, for one thing. Thus, Timmy was born. It’s appropriately set in the Reagan era, though because it was such a repressive time for LGBT people, and really for anyone who was different from the norm. It was a time of conformity and retrenchment. It was also a time when the AIDS crisis raged and, for the most part, the straight world didn’t care. This is the world that fifteen year old, shy sissy boy Timmy is trying to navigate.

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

I'm @writersamhawk and friends are
Patti Downing at @pattiDwrites and Jamie Olin @jkolin27

6- Would you share a picture with us of with your Chartreux cat?

7- What's the biggest defeatable obstacle, in your opinion, that keeps certain people from accepting the LGBTQIA+ community?

Defeatable obstacle. Any variance from gender norms is very threatening to some people. This is why certain politicians have been pushing those stupid transgender bathroom bills. It’s not because trans people pose any threat to anyone, rather it’s because they’re a tiny, misunderstood minority and it’s easy to stir up fear of them. I also think that these politicians needed to move on from focusing on persecution of gays and lesbians and target trans people because everybody knows a gay or lesbian person these days. In Timmy’s day, hardly any straight people knew that they knew any gays or lesbians. Today, everybody has a neighbor or co-worker, or brother or sister who is gay. Like Harvey Milk said “Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.” Trans visibility is a natural extension of the fight that began at Stonewall.

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

I’m so gay that I will buy a book solely for brilliant cover art.

9- 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: Mark Childress @markchildress
Title: Crazy in Alabama
Love because: It’s smart, funny, Southern, and about something. He’s also a really great guy who once messaged me to wish me luck with my book.

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

This one is easy. Patti Downing, my writing group partner. She encouraged me so much during the creation of New Boy at the Academy and is sort of my unpaid, unofficial publicist. She also happens to be a kickass writer who writes the most twisted, incredible, sick-in-a-good-way stuff. A smart agent is going to scoop her up any minute.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

To quote the great Dolly Parton, “Laughter through the tears is my favorite emotion.”

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

I love to follow Christopher Rice. Christopher.Rice.Writer. He really understands the importance of social media for a writer. I want to be him when I grow up.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I love the thought of a teen boy or girl in East Jesus, South Carolina or Oklahoma reading New Boy under the covers with a flashlight, and realizing that it will be all right one day. Things have improved dramatically for queer kids since Timmy’s day, but there are many places where the oppression is real.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Timmy’s shy naiveté. Read the book to see how he emerges.

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

Timmy is pretty much a six on the Kinsey scale. Doug is confidently gay. Carleen may not be as much of a Kinsey one as she thinks she is. Mr. Maurice is super gay.
I score a 6, according to the Buzz Feed quiz. Sounds about right.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

My favorite is not a blog but a podcast. I’m breaking the rules. Sue me. It’s called Writers in Progress. It’s from England and you should listen. Learn more at @gemjackson2. Oh yeah, he interviewed me. We love him.

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

Nine Star Press said yes. @ninestarpress

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

Book reviews help readers decide to buy a book and they help writers sell books. But don’t be mean. Every book is an author’s heart and soul. Keep that in mind.

19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

How funny New Boy at the Academy is. When I first started writing, I thought I’d write weighty, important Southern literature, dripping with Spanish moss, heaving bosoms and repressed homosexuals. In other words, Faulkner reborn. Instead, I wrote a funny short story about the Miss Texas pageant and I still love it. I live to make people laugh, especially in dark places.

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

Sam Hawk’s fiction is inspired by his experiences at a private Christian Academy in rural South Carolina in the ’70s. He survived his Southern adolescence with his sanity relatively intact and went on to earn degrees from the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Law School. He also served in the U.S. Army as a JAG officer for twelve years. He resigned his commission when it became clear he was expected to persecute homosexuals as part of his job. Sam then moved to Dallas, Texas where he met the man of his dreams and found his LGBT family. Sam and his husband Wes were together for 19 years and married for 12. They lived with a Corgi and a Chartreux cat in the requisite charming old house in a historic district where gay couples are legally compelled to live.

Wes lost his fight with Huntington’s Disease in May 2019.

New Boy at the Academy by Sam Hawk

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

July 2019 Pass or Pages Agent Panel

Meet the agents who are going to critique your Young Adult Horror entries!

Image result for kelly peterson mswl

Kelly Peterson

Kelly Peterson is a West Chester University graduate with a B.S.Ed in English and Literature. She worked as a Junior Literary Agent for two years before moving to Rees Literary Agency, continuing to champion her authors and the manuscripts she loves. Kelly seeks manuscripts in various genres within Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult age ranges. In Middle Grade, she loves fantasy, sci-fi, and contemporary that touches on tough issues for young readers. Her Young Adult preferences vary from contemporary to high fantasy, sci-fi (not the space kind) to paranormal (all the ghost stories, please!), and historical all the way back to rom-coms. Kelly is proud to continue to represent Adult manuscripts in romance, fantasy, and sci-fi. She is very interested in representing authors with marginalized own voices stories, witty and unique characters, pirates, witches, and dark fantasies.


Cortney Radocaj

As a member and advocate of both the LGBT and neurodiverse communities, Cortney adores seeing works that celebrate and normalize these experiences, particularly in YA. For Cortney, compelling characters are what grab her the most; she loves books with strong, dynamic, complex characters that have complicated and nuanced relationships with other—especially romances! She loves romantic threads that weave in seamlessly with the plot and characters’ motivations, particularly in SFF. In regard to POVs, the closer, the better; she wants to live inside characters' heads when she reads, and loves as little distance as possible. She enjoys when authors break stereotypes and tropes, and she loves when plots and characters surprise her, leaving her breathless on the edge of her seat. 

Category/Genre: Young Adult Horror

Details for July 2019 Pass or Pages:

Entry starts: Monday, July 8 at 6 a.m. Eastern
Ends: Friday, July 12 at 6 p.m. Eastern
Category/Genre: Young Adult Horror
How To Enter: Fill out the entry form on the contest post when it goes live
What Is Required: Your query (NO BIO or personalization for agents), your first 250 words, a complete and polished MS

You can also read more about the rules here.

The winning entries with agent commentary will be posted on Operation Awesome the week of July 22, one entry each day. If you aren't comfortable with having your entry (which will be anonymous) shared on the blog, please don't enter Pass or Pages!

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments or tweet @OpAwesome6. Also, feel free to chat about the contest with fellow participants on the hashtag #PassOrPages.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Which was better, book or movie?

My first regular post was a success, thanks to YOU for commenting!  It was fun to see that a few of you have actual opinions about books.  Let's build on our previous success and read more of your opinions.

Last week we talked about book formats and which ones might be better.  This week let's talk about books and movies.  I hear you groaning.
We're WRITERS!  Obviously we like books better than movies, amiright?  But some of you out there in internetland might be script writers and have an inferior a different opinion.  Or you might write both.

Sometimes, the book really is better than the movie.  And sometimes, the movie really is better than the book.

We all remember Harry Potter and Hunger Games.  You can talk about those if you want, but what about some of the more recent movies that were based on books?

Here are a few movie releases from 2018 and 2019.  Have you read these books AND seen these movies?  You don't have to limit your comments to these books/movies though.

Crazy Rich Asians [Kevin Kwan]
The Girl in the Spider's Web [David Lagercrantz]
The Hate U Give [Angie Thomas]
Ready Player One [Ernest Cline]
Pet Sematary [Stephen King]
The Sun is Also a Star [Nicola Yoon]
A Wrinkle in Time [Madeleine L'Engle]

I mostly read books.  I rarely see a movie.  If you thought the movie was better than the book, convince me to watch the movie!  Or, confirm my usual opinion that the book was better than the movie and congratulate me for saving my money.

Which did you like better, the book or the movie?  Why?  Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dear O'Abby... Scratch that. Dear Readers.

Dear Readers,

O'Abby here.  This week I need your advice because I'm the one with a writing problem I can't solve. So really hope some of you out there might have some thoughts on what I should do.

I can't finish my book.

This is not something that's ever happened to me before.  Usually I know the ending, or something that resembles an ending right at the start of writing a book.  Even if the first scene I write is somewhere toward the middle of the story.  I even usually write the ending early on in the drafting process so I have somewhere to aim for.

I should add I'm not a plotter or outliner.  Writing the ending is about as much plotting as I do, usually.  But for some reason, I left this unfinished manuscript sitting on my hard drive without an ending.  And now I've filled in all the rest of the missing bits, but still can't figure out how to end it.

To be honest, even if I had written an ending back then, it probably wouldn't fit with the story I've written now.  But on the other hand, maybe if the ending had been there, I wouldn't have written the middle parts the way they've ended up.

The problem I have, is that I've taken everything away from my MC.  Everything he has worked toward throughout the book, everything he believed he needed.  And I don't feel like I can end the book with him at such a low place.  There needs to be some spark of hope for him.  I don't need a happy ending, just something that offers some chance that he might actually manage to find happiness or fulfillment in the future.

There are two women who have been a part of his life over the course of the book and I feel like they need to be part of the ending.  But I can't figure out how to write them in without it feeling forced.  The first woman disappears from the story after about chapter 5 or 6 and is only mentioned again once or twice, but I feel like she's the one who could show my MC a way forward.  But I'm not sure how to re-introduce her in a way that feels natural or organic.

The other woman is more consistently a part of the story, but I don't think my MC would go to her at this point in the story.  Not without someone or something else urging him to.  Things between them have become weird for a number of reasons.

So I'm asking for advice.  What do you do if you can't finish a story?  Are there techniques you use?  Do you put it away and leave it for a few weeks?  Let someone else read it and offer suggestions?

I'm asking for your advice.  Apart from not being able to end it, I love this story and my stupidly messed up characters.  And I want to give them the ending they deserve.  Even if it isn't the ending my MC thinks he wants...

X O'Abby

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Claire Bartlett's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

We Rule the Night by Claire Bartlett

1- What's the best part about being in Copenhagen?

My bicycle. I can go anywhere on my bike, and it usually takes less time than taking the bus. I love living in a metropolitan place where I don’t have to rely on a car or a bus schedule to get around (though the public transportation here is wonderful too!).

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

Writing is a learning process, even when you’re published. Always be ready to learn - it’s exciting and fun to grow!

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

My mom would say my third grade teacher, who gave us lots of writing assignments and really encouraged me to get started with writing. But I remember reading Jane Yolen’s Dream Weaver when I was young, and thinking, “I can do that! I want to do that!” and, well…I never lost that optimistic arrogance.

4- Would you share a fun story about Fellini and Figaro? #CatLovers

We adopted Fellini and his brother Figaro just a couple of months ago from the cat shelter, so we’re still collecting stories. But what I’ve found so far is that Fellini loves drinking shower water. Whenever we go into the bathroom he races in there, just in case we’re going to take a bath! He hides himself behind the shower curtain, because he doesn’t like to get his fur wet, and then his little head pokes from under the curtain to lap up water from the shower floor. Figaro loves to play, and sometimes when we don’t play with him enough he uses his brother’s tail as a toy. Fellini doesn’t always love that. For the most part the brothers get along, though.

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

My handle is @bartlebett, and I love my writer friends! I have to shout out the incredibly supportive @KellyCoon106. Kelly’s the author of Gravemaidens and an all around wonderful human! I also have to shout out a couple of agent sibs - Kai Doore @KA_Doore, author of The Perfect Assassin and a great source of inspiration for getting that writing done! Marissa Lingen has literally decades of experience in the business and is a fantastic well of expertise if you’re looking for someone who has great advice. Follow @MarissaLingen.

6- Would you share a picture with us of something that's iconic Copenhagen?

So I'm a terrible photographer, but here's a favorite spot of mine in Copenhagen. It's behind the university, and a slightly quieter space than the bustling town center around it. The tower in the background is Vor Frues Kirke, the Church of Our Lady. It's probably Copenhagen's most major church.

7- You're rocking some awesome rainbow hair on your website. What prompted you to do that, is it difficult to maintain all the colors, and will you do it like that again?

First of all, thank you! I love my rainbow hair. I got really into looking at how other people dyed their hair, and then a friend who lives in Budapest said she wanted to do it too! I flew to Budapest, we spent the weekend together and we went to her trusted hairdresser to get the job done. Since then I’ve dyed it myself, and I have to redo it every six weeks or so. It isn’t really difficult to maintain, just time consuming. So I’m living it up while I can.

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

The back blurb. If I love the way the book sounds, I’ll usually see if it’s available at the Copenhagen library (or, if I’m at my favorite bookstore, I’ll ask my friend who works there what she thinks of it). If I can’t get it from the library and I really like the sound of it, I’ll see if I can nab it as an ebook or audiobook (or if my bookstore friend recommends it I’ll pick it up). There are a few authors who are an auto-buy for me, and most of those I started reading at the library!

9- 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: Susanna Clarke doesn’t have a twitter handle!
Title: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
Love because: this book combines history, magic, the napoleonic wars, Austenian commentary on high society, drama and danger. I love it so much. It’s a great historical fantasy.

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

I’ve had so many great messages, tweets and instagram photos from so many wonderful people! But my sister read one of the first iterations of We Rule the Night, and demanded I tell her EVERYTHING that will ever happen in that world from now until forever. She’s a great writer too but she couldn’t be trusted to give my book a good edit. She kept skipping ahead, laughing uproariously, gasping, and generally doing exactly the thing that all authors want fans to do. She’s wonderful. She seems to love the one-liners the most.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope readers will take away a sense of outrage and hope. Outrage that the sexism prevalent in the book happened, and is still happening today, but hope that we can change things by supporting each other and overturning stereotypes.

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

I love @beaconbookbox! They are adorable, they have great photos and they’re a small business run by a young adult! I’m super impressed by them and I loved working with them in April.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I hope readers will feel stronger - like they can do anything. I hope they’ll appreciate the friends they have, and keep the bonds of friendship strong. A lot of YA focuses on romantic relationships as the main relationship of a story, and while I love a good romance, I always wanted to read a YA novel that reflected my reality, that emphasized the love between friends and didn’t pay so much attention to romance.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

That’s an easy one: Revna is a double below-knee amputee, and her prosthetic legs are made of living metal. Her father made them for her before the start of the novel, and she naturally has a special relationship with them.

15- What's your favorite book with a diverse main character? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Right now my favorite book with a diverse main character is Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard. It’s sort of a police procedural, except the detective is the Aztec High Priest of the dead and the magic is bloody and brilliant.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I really appreciate the Book Bratz, and I think they do great reviews. But there are so many wonderful bloggers out there, so thank you to each and every one of you!

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

I genuinely think that others can see the flaws in my books better than I can. Editors don’t curb the genius of authors, they help it to shine! That was why I decided to try my hand at traditional publishing. My editor understood what I wanted to say with We Rule the Night and how I was failing to say it, and she’s made not just this book, but my writing in general better. I love you @hallietibbetts!

Also, I always wanted to see my book in my local bookstore. That helps with choosing traditional publishing.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

There are two reasons. First of all, it helps authors! If you liked a book and think an author should keep writing, write a review. It doesn’t have to be a five-star review (even a one-star review can help!).

Readers should also review books so that other readers know what to expect. I used to read Goodreads reviews every single time I thought about picking up a book. Both the high praise reviews and the negative reviews told me something about the book and helped me decide whether the book was for me.

19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I wrote this novel to celebrate strong female friendships in YA. Do your readers think there’s a dearth of friendship stories, and what are their favorite YA friendship stories?

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

Claire Bartlett is a writer based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She loves history, fantasy, her enchanted forest apartment and her cats. Find her on twitter, instagram or facebook @bartlebett, or get news and extras from her website: .

Read part of We Rule the Night:

Colonel Koslen’s office smelled of sweat, earth and oil. Papers lay scattered across his desk, the aftermath of a bureaucratic war. Koslen stood behind the desk, clenching and unclenching his ham hands as Linné came in. The colonel cut an impressive figure, tall and broad and with biceps the size of Linné’s head. Tannov and their friend Dostorov had joked that before the war, Koslen was a goatherd who liked the smell of goats better than the smell of women. Linné preferred to mock his glorious mustache, waxed to a curl. It twitched whenever he spoke, whenever he sighed, whenever he lost his temper, or whenever it seemed a particularly difficult thought was pushing itself through the sludge of his brain. After any ordinary disciplinary action, Linné would return to the barracks with her finger over her upper lip, wiggling it back and forth as she described Koslen’s temper.

No one would laugh at the joke now. They’d laugh at her.

Koslen studied her round face, her dark hair, her thin body, searching out the little touches that branded her as female. Linné pushed her shoulders back, daring him to say something.

They stood that way for several long moments. Then he sighed. “Please, take a seat.” He gestured toward his chair, the nice chair. “Would you like some tea?”

Linné’s palms began to burn. For three years he’d treated her like a soldier. And suddenly she was a girl. A miss. She fought to keep her face neutral. If she took his offer, she’d be relegated to the status of a woman, an outsider, unfit to serve. If she refused, he could claim she was incapable of following orders.

Koslen went over to a silver samovar, squeezed onto a side table next to the company’s hulking radio. Wasting precious metal had become a serious offense around two years ago, when the heads of the Union had realized just how bad the war was about to get. But officers always managed to squirrel something nice away.

Linné slid into the hard chair reserved for the colonel’s subordinates, sitting rigid with her wrists propped on the desk. “Thank you, sir.”

Koslen stopped midstep toward the chair she’d taken for herself. Then he turned and went to his own as though he’d meant to all along. He placed one cup of pale golden tea in front of her and took a sip from the other.

“You’ve turned our little regiment quite upside down, miss.” His tone was all exaggerated courtesy. A gentleman could never shout at a lady.

“Have I, sir?”

Koslen frowned. The mustache twitched as he inhaled, slowly and deliberately. He could smell the brandy on her. She should’ve left it alone.

He was silent for a moment, and behind his eyes she saw some sort of argument raging. Then he seemed to make up his mind. “I’m not going to waste time. If you have no shame for your actions, perhaps you should consider how you have endangered the men of your company.”

Linné pressed her lips together. Arguing got a soldier latrine duty, or graveside duty, or watches for the witching hours.

Perhaps he mistook her silence for contrition. “War is simply not women’s work, miss,” he said.

Though apparently it is goatherds’ work, Linné thought. She couldn’t help herself. She imagined her next words running along an iron beam, strong and steady. If her voice shook, Koslen might think she was close to tears instead of holding back her rage. “I have served faithfully, sir. I have been loyal to the Union and the regiment.”

“You have distracted the men,” Koslen replied. “They cannot spend their time at the front worrying for your safety. Don’t you understand? You don’t just endanger their lives by coming here. You endanger their minds, their ability to think.”

Cowards. She recognized the lie, even if Koslen didn’t. The men were afraid that she could no longer do her job. They were afraid that she’d never been able to do her job. That every mistake she’d ever made was because she was a girl, and not because she was human.

We Rule the Night by Claire Bartlett

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

July Pass or Pages Genre Reveal

The genre for July 2019 Pass or Pages is...

Young Adult Horror

Here are the important dates for this round:

July 2nd: Agent panel announcement
July 8th-12th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
July 22nd-26th: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Please do not send us adult horror, we can tell the difference. Best of luck!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Which reading format is the best?

Today is my first “regular” post on this blog.

My goal is for you to find the Monday blog posts entertaining and fun.  And that you LEAVE A COMMENT!  I also want you to leave a comment on our other posts too, so let's start here and then keep moving forward.

I obtain most of my books from the library.
Don't you wish you were here?
Usually I check out audio books because I read while commuting throughout SoCal, but I also read on my Kindle.

Back in 2014, before the movie was released, I borrowed THE MARTIAN as an e-book and read it on my Kindle.  The plot was too slow and I couldn't finish it.  I then checked out the hard-cover book.  Couldn't finish that either.
But I didn't want to give up on the story because it was apparently good enough that a movie was then in production.  So I tried the audio book.
It was so funny that at one point I was laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face, my nose was running, and I couldn't see.
Even an icon can't keep its eyes open when laughing this much
Fortunately I was able to pull off onto the shoulder of the freeway and stop the car before I crashed.

I write MG and a few months ago I tried reading ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY on my Kindle.  Did not finish.
Here's your cute internet cat meme for the week
This one's for our down-under readers

But I recently found it at the library as an audio book.  I'm half-way through and this time I'm finding it fun.

Have you ever started reading a book that for whatever reason you just couldn't finish, but you tried reading it in a different format which made it interesting or fun and you finished it?
 Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Dear O'Abby, Punctuation woes

Dear O'Abby,

I'm published by a small press and have discovered during the editorial process that they have a style guide that forbids the use of semi-colons in their books.  Now, I don't over-use semi-colons, but I do use them where it's appropriate, and I like the feel and rhythm they give my prose.  Having removed them all for my editor, I feel like several passages now feel wrong.  The rhythm is off.  The meaning, of those sentences hasn't changed exactly, but has subtly shifted.

Do you have any advice? I mean, why have a policy like that in the first place?



Dear Semi-Punctuated,

I don't think there is anything you can do in this situation. It's frustrating, I know. My small press publisher has the same policy and it irritates me every time my editor removes one of my lovingly placed semi-colons.

If you want to continue writing for this publisher, you will need to work within their style guide.  Maybe try writing your next book without any semi-colons.  Or edit them out yourself before you submit the manuscript so at least you have control over the way the sentences sound and feel without the semi-colons.

Or of course, you could look for a different publisher for your next book.  But you may find other publishers have the same style-guide.  And if not using semi-colons is the only complaint you have about your publisher, you might want to think long and hard about this option.  If you're happy with everything else they do, is this really a deal breaker?

As for why a publisher might have a policy like that, I can only hazard a guess that they were getting too many manuscripts in which authors over-used semi-colons or mis-used them frequently.  Or perhaps the editors themselves are unsure about how to use them properly and felt it was easier to just say no than to try and figure out if each one a writer uses is correct or not.  I don't know.

I know this doesn't solve your issue, but hopefully you now know you are not alone in this boat.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

J. Lawson's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions and #coffee at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Amulets (The Amulets Trilogy) by J. Lawson

1- Your book is in paperback. Any plans to offer it as an ebook as well, and why or why not?

The book was available in paperback only for the first month and is now available in e-book as well. I originally wanted to coordinate the release of the e-book with the title and cover debut of the second book in the series, but the cover artist I work with, Cheyenne Leslie Hurst, was working with a hand injury and that was delayed. She is amazing and I’m so lucky to be working with her.

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

Find a place you can be comfortable and productive. Try multiple locations and figure out what does and doesn’t work about each. Many people think it would be somewhere quiet and alone, but I find I’m most productive when writing in public where I can have short bursts of hyper focus and then distract for a bit before another burst.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

Reading was always something I loved from a young age; getting lost in worlds and events that truly affected me, even if they weren’t real. I always thought it would be amazing to be able to create and write something like that for other people. Once I started, I knew I couldn’t stop. It became an outlet for me; something I could do to feel good.

4- You have characters who work in a bookstore. What prompted you to pick that location?

I love bookstores, I feel at home in bookstores, and I’ve worked in bookstores multiple times throughout my life. I know many readers feel the same, so it would be an anchor of sorts through the rest of the events. The characters in the book enjoy escaping the more difficult aspects of their life and immersing themselves in other worlds they can find in the store; something else I think most readers can relate to.

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

My Twitter handle is @AuthorLawson. I’d love to shout out to @JenniferFlaig, @therealzombres, and @ThePenguinBard. These authors are my support net. They’re incredibly talented and have been amazing at helping me develop along my journey.

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book by the trees

7- Jordan, Georgia, and Sawyer -- a country, a state, and a town. Coincidence?

Complete coincidence!! That’s crazy and I love it. I never would have noticed that, but now I need to do some soul searching to see if there was something subconscious going on there. Technically, another couple of characters in the next book have names that could be city names as well. That’s bizarre; you’re freaking me out.

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

I put a lot of stock in recommendations from people whose taste I trust. I also love to read local and indie authors’ books because we all gotta stick together! When I’m looking on my own, I start looking within a specific genre based on whatever mood I’m in at the time. Once I’m there, it’s all about the back of the books and whether they grab me. Writing blurbs for my books is painful, but they really are an amazing tool for drawing interest.

9- 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!

My all-time favorite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She’s a little behind the times in terms of social media so no Twitter handle. It’s a shame because I’d follow the heck out of her if she did! Real-time favorite is probably:
Author name: Karen Marie Moning @KarenMMoning
Title: Darkfever (the whole series is amazing)
Love because: In terms of modern fantasy, it does the best job of world building in an already existent world. She writes characters so clearly without an indecent amount of superfluous detail. It seems effortless. In my limited experience, making something seem effortless is ironically one of the hardest things to do.

Good choice! That is on my TBR/ wishlist.

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

I am fortunate to have many supportive people in my life who are fans. My best friend, Laura, has been emotionally and creatively invested in this whole process with me and she’s one of my biggest fans. She says she’s drawn into a world that’s different from her own but still relatable. She can see herself as a patron at the book store getting to know the characters makes it easy to understand how they can make the decisions they do because it’s what’s right. She’s a treasure and I appreciate her so much.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I really wanted the book to be an effortless read. To have that happen, I needed the characters to be relatable so the reader could connect with them and their experiences. There is a scene in the middle of the book where Jordan’s frustration with her current situation finally boils over and she had a short but emotional rant calling out everyone’s involvement. I felt a lot of feelings while writing it. I hope that comes through to the readers.

12- What is your favorite drink?

coffee cup image
Coffee, coffee, a thousand times, coffee. It is word juice, creation brew, and magic bean water. Coffee can take any mania I'm feeling and bring it back down to baseline. I have coffee with me almost any time I'm writing or editing. It's part of the process. Even the smell is conducive to creativity for me. I seriously love coffee. The people at our local diner know me and bring it without asking when I show up. Same at two of the local Starbucks that I frequent. Coffee is a true and loyal friend.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I’ve touched on it before, but I love how fantasy books offer readers an escape and I hope my books can do that as well. At the same time, relatability is really important to me. I want people to read my work and think “I totally understand how they feel” or “Oh yeah, I know someone like that.”

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

None of my characters are too distinctive visually. I love Mama Landry’s dialect. It’s time consuming to write but satisfying to read once I get it right. Most of the main characters love coffee; something I relate to!

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

In this series, it’s actually a secondary character who is the most diverse. All the other characters in the book come from the same small Vermont town, but Mama Landry is a black woman with a heavy dialect who really stands out while somehow still fitting in. Her views on life, death, an existence in general are different than those around her and she brings a noticeably different perspective to the things she’s involved in. I adore her.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I enjoy FantasyCafe @fantasycafe. I’ve found a number of books I really enjoyed from reading their review and they tend to be pretty accurate for my tastes.

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

I looked into standard publishing and I couldn’t come close to affording it. I knew querying was an option, but I honestly just wanted to get the book out there and in people’s hands, so the fastest and most fiscally plausible option was to self-publish, which I did. KDP is a great way to self-publish. It is user friendly and their support, which I’m fortunate to have only needed to contact twice, are fantastic.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

Oh my gosh, book reviews are so incredibly important! They can help a reader decide whether they want to give a book a chance. Especially as a self-published author, word of mouth is one of the strongest tools we have. That being said, reviews need to be written in a useful way. If I read a review and it just says the book was amazing or the book was awful, that’s not useful. WHY was it good or awful? I want to know what specifically about it was good or bad. IT also potentially lets the author know what they can use to apply to future projects. Well-written reviews (whether positive or negative) are incredibly useful feedback.

19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

What are the three main things you look for and/or appreciate in a fantasy novel or series?

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

This book is a dream come to light. I still have a hard time believing something I envisioned during a nap has been actualized. The outpouring of support has been humbling. Book two should be out in summer of 2019 and I hope to have the final book out by summer of 2020. I also have an LGBTQ humor novel coming out later this year as well.


A centuries-old war, a lineage of magic thought long dead, and a girl desperately struggling to find her place.
Jordan has a secret; one that’s kept her intentionally antisocial. So, when new girl Georgia moves to town and begins working at the same bookstore, she is naturally apprehensive. Yet, discovering their unanticipated connection makes her question everything she’s ever believed.
When they discover unusual happenings linked to the old mill, they along with Sawyer, handsome grandson of the town crank, find themselves forced to investigate a potentially evil source of conflict threatening the safety of their town. Will Jordan and Georgia’s common gifts, along with Sawyer’s courage and charm, be enough to get the answers they need to save the town? Or does letting yourself care just mean you have more to lose?


J. Lawson was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. She moved to Peoria, Illinois in 2008, where she currently resides with her husband, son, and two dogs. She graduated from Western Illinois University with a Master's in English Literature. The Amulets (book one in The Amulets Trilogy) is her debut novel. Lawson enjoys reading fantasy, thriller, mystery, and most varieties of fiction. She also loves 80s-90s rock music. Drinking coffee and spending time with friends is her happiest pastime.

Social Media Links: Twitter: @AuthorLawson

The Amulets (The Amulets Trilogy) by J. Lawson

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Takeaways from WRiTE CLUB

I recently volunteered as a reader for WRiTE CLUB, which is a tournament-style writing event that pits 500-word writing samples against one another for eternal glory – or, you know, prizes. As a reader, I had to choose the top 30 entries from over 100 writing samples, and sometimes the choice was hard. Other times, though, there were things that stood out that made the decision easy – and not in a good way.

Don’t have the scene start with a character waking up. There’s a quote from The Office that is particularly relevant here: “When you recount your day, never say you woke up. It’s a waste of your time. That’s how every day’s begun, for everyone, since the dawn of man.” I mean, think about it – when someone asks what you did today, you never start with, “Well, I woke up…” The same goes for your writing, and this is especially true for your hook. The hook should be uniquely relevant to your main character in your plot in your setting, and it should make the reader want to keep reading.

Give the reader a reason to be sympathetic to your main character. Unlikeable MCs can be done well, but they need a redeeming feature, something that makes the reader root for them despite their unlikability. Maybe the MC is an alcoholic, but they have a sweet spot for kittens. Maybe they’re a stuck-up snob, but they have a great sense of self-deprecating humor. Whatever it is, the reader needs something to connect with that humanizes an otherwise bad person.

Be careful with dialect and languages. Dialect is tricky. Trying to capture the essence of spoken language in writing is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to do. It’s what made Robert Burns famous, and H.P. Lovecraft infamous. When in doubt, it’s probably in your best interest to skip the dialect and instead mention it in dialogue tags (“I don’t think so,” he growled in a thick Scottish brogue). Similarly, if you’re writing something with a made-up language, try to limit the new words you use in your opening. Your reader is already entering a foreign world; adding a foreign language right off the bat can be too much. It’s like getting into a hot tub: you ease in, you don’t jump in right away.

Show, don’t tell. I know, it’s been said a million times, but based on how many times I gave this note, it can always be said once more. Here are two examples I whipped up based on a quote by Anton Checov:

  • The full moon shone bright in the sky above the burned-out house.
  • Moonlight glinted on a shower of broken glass, illuminating the house’s burned-out husk.

HUGE difference. Weave your descriptions into the narrative as much as you can so the plot can continue to move along even as information is being revealed. I like to think of it as tricking the reader into learning about my characters or setting when they really think they’re getting plot.

For the love of Cthulhu, don’t use “hmm.” Hmm, mmm, huh, and variations thereupon are a waste of precious word count, especially in your first couple pages. Yes, we say them when we’re talking out loud, but they’re exceedingly rare in print. There are other ways to indicate that a character is hesitating or taking a moment to think before they respond. 

And lastly…

Use one space after a period, not two. Using two spaces is no longer standard; this is a remnant from the typewriter days. (Don’t @ me, I have a Swiss Hermes Baby on my desk.) You can fix this with a simple “find-replace” in Word.

Best of luck with your revisions!