Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Can I use someone's life in my novel?

Dear O'Abby,

A few years back I was working with someone to help write their autobiography.  The project never really came together, but I have tons of awesome notes about their very exciting life and career.  I was wondering if I could use these to write a novel because it's a great story, full of drama and passion and adventure. 

Would there be any ramifications if I was to ficitionalize this person's life?

All the best,

Naughtybiographer

Dear Naughtybiographer,

This is a tricky question to answer because I don't know the circumstances under which you started working on the autobiography project or why you stopped working on it.  I also don't know what kind of contracts you may have signed as part of this deal.  If you signed a non-disclosure agreement, you are legally bound to keep the things the subject told you to yourself, so I would tread very carefully if you want to use their life story in a novel.

If you didn't sign a non-disclosure agreement, I would still tread carefully.  If you are still in contact with the subject of the autobiography and you feel the relationship is still good enough you could get in touch, maybe send them a quick email outlining what your plan is and ask if they are okay for you do it.

If this isn't possible, and you are determined to write this novel, you will need to make sure you change this person's life story enough that it could be just coincidence that the story's plot follows the trajectory of this person's life.  Change the character's profession, name, looks, family structure and anything else you can so that the autobiography subject would struggle to recognize themselves as the inspiration for this character.

If they are a famous sports-person who struggled with addiction only to overcome it and become one of the top performers in their field, change them into a super-model who struggles with a disfiguring injury only to overcome it and walk in Paris Fashion Week. Or something along those lines.  Just make sure you change enough of the detail it can't really be said to mirror this person's real life or any of the side characters could be identified.

Good luck!

X O'Abby


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Jordan Zucker's Debut Author Spotlight #ODFS is #Cooking up #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

One Dish - Four Seasons: Food, Wine, and Sound - All Year Round by Jordan Zucker


1- What's your favorite memory from being on Scrubs?

When Bill Lawrence directed and he’d throw new lines at us between takes. It was so much fun to be part of a professional process where talent was trusted all around.

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

It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, when you have an idea or inspiration, start typing. Don’t judge the process. You may never think it’s finished, but one day it may be printed.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

Clear expression, communication, entertainment, and humor.

4- Of all the songs listed in the book, which is your favorite?

A mother doesn’t pick favorites.

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

@jordzuck - two of my sorority sisters are bad ass authors - Allison Winn Scotch @aswinn and Laura Dave @lauradave

6- Would you share a picture with us with one of the dishes from the book?

Crab Guacamole

7- Where, in your opinion, is the best place to buy a bottle of wine to go with dinner?

That depends on your access. Straight from the winery if it’s within shot. If not a local wine merchant with a curated list.

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

Subject matter and writing style.

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: Richard Feynman
Title: Six Easy Pieces
Love because: I’m a math/science girl. My high school boyfriend gave it to me.


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

Do I have fans?!?! That’s so nice!

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

Community, hospitality, joy. Eat together, drink together, groove together, love together.

12- Who should play in the next Superbowl?

KC vs NO
I’m a Saints fan so that’ll always be my pick. With or without Brees.
And anyone but the Patriots for ALC but that’s not the reality of our times right now. I want to see some of that Mahomes magic in Miami.

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

Eat locally, take risks in the kitchen.

14- Which recipe from your book do you feel is the most original, unusual, or unique?

I’ll go with my fish prep. It’s my signature dish and I haven’t seen anyone else put the fish on top of the greens enabling the fish juices cook into the greens while it’s all roasting.

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

n/a

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I'm not sure - This is all new to me!

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

I wasn’t a big enough celebrity to get a book deal so I did it myself and benefited from complete creative control.

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

To spread the good word! It may inspire someone else to pick up the book.

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

Have you ever noticed a seasonal pattern in your music choices. e.g. is your favorite winter album different from your favorite summer album?

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

Jordan Zucker is an accomplished writer, actor, host, cook, and entertainer. She loves to creatively incorporate meals into every type of celebration (and who can’t find at least one reason to celebrate a day…). She has shared her expertise as a guest star on Food Network’s Grill It! with Bobby Flay, and has entertained audiences as “Lisa the intern” on NBC’s Scrubs. She continues to educate, engage, empower, and entertain through her own comedic sports series, Girls Guide to Sports, which she writes, hosts, and produces. She combined her love of football and food in her “Monday Night Matchup Menus” series, creating meals each week based on the teams playing in Monday Night Football. She has expanded into cooking for other sports on the Girls Guide website. Jordan attends live music concerts religiously and keeps abreast of current gems and classic legends in the music world. Here, she combines three of her biggest passions, food, wine, and music, to bring you her first book.

Social Media:
Facebook:
@jordzuck
Twitter:
@jordzuck
Pinterest link:
@jordzuck
LinkedIn:
@jordzuck
YouTube link:
@jordzuck
Instagram:
@jordzuck
Author website:
http://onedishfourseasons.com


To read J's review of the book, go to: jlennidornerblog.what-are-they.com/2019/08/26/exquisite-readathon-boutofbooks-26-wrap-up-and-bookreviews-odfs/


One Dish - Four Seasons: Food, Wine, and Sound - All Year Round by Jordan Zucker

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Let's Talk About Prologues

The Prologue. The thing that every J.R.R. Tolkien novel must have, and must be at least 50 pages long. The thing that you - yes, you - do not need in your manuscript.

I'm calling you out. You know who you are.

Prologues have come under fire on Writer Twitter in the past year or two. Increasingly, agents are saying that they don't want to see them as part of a query package, and a lot of agents seem to be advising writers to cut the prologue from their work. I found that this was best summed up in an #AskAgent thread from earlier this year:
Writer Question: When querying, is it true you should never send a prologue as part of your initial novel sample? Should you start with Ch 1 even if you have a prologue?
Agent Answer: If your prologue can be dropped that easily, it sounds like you don't need the prologue at all!
The agent here has a point. If you wouldn't show an agent the prologue, why would you show it to a reader? And if you wouldn't show it to a reader, does it really serve a purpose in your manuscript? Maybe it really is better to just give it the old highlight-delete. And here are a few reasons why that might be the case:

Problem: It's world-building. 

A lot of prologues I've seen as a beta reader and a CP fall into this category. This is especially true for fantasy, where the writer has a lot of setting up the world to do. Sure, sometimes it feels like a prologue is the place to stash that information. I mean, how else are you supposed to explain to the reader that magic is illegal now because of that one Big Bag Guy who used magic wrong without interrupting the story? Isn't that the whole point of show, don't tell?

The best way to get around this is to gradually weave that background into the opening chapters. Some writers do it by having the characters go to school where they study the history of the Big Bad Guy, or with a campfire tale, or a bedtime story. Sometimes it can be done by having the main character consider an artifact - a fountain, a statue, a book - and rehash the history to themselves. Sometimes it's best to let the history be a mystery for a while to build up intrigue and curiosity.

Problem: It's background about the character(s).

This is another common one. This usually involves a scene where the main character is very young, and it's often a tragic story about how their parents died. If your first chapter starts with "X years later..." you fall into this camp.

Like the previous type of prologue, weaving the character's backstory into the manuscript is the way to go. Make the reader wonder! Make them wait for that tragic sob story! Build mystery about your character so that you can reveal the truth at the opportune time! Giving up all the good stuff in the prologue is showing your hand way too early. Let the main character open up to someone and use that story to explain why they are the way they are.

Problem: It's only tangentially related to the plot or characters.

While this is less common, it does happen. The prologue of THE BOOK THIEF falls into this category (in my opinion). I even wrote a prologue like this for the first manuscript I queried, where two side characters had a meeting that would only influence the plot much, much later. It ended up spoiling part of the story for the reader and let them in on things too early.

When it comes to this type of prologue, the most likely course of action is just to let it go. If the link to the rest of the manuscript is tenuous, then what's written there doesn't need to be said. Is it really that important?

If you're on the fence, or even if you're sure that your manuscript needs a prologue, really consider your prologue. Does it advance the plot? Does it impact the characters? Does it tell the reader anything they desperately need to know? If the answer to these questions is no, it's time for the prologue to disappear.

Monday, October 14, 2019

First 50 Critique - MG #3

NASA's 50th Anniversary
For all the details of how this works, click here.  We are NOT accepting entries this week.  But if you want to enter when we DO open the entry period, you must post a critique on at least TWO previous entries before you'll be able to submit.

Reminder: Be nice, but be honest. [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.] What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words? Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre? Does it have a hook? Does it pull you into the story? Do you want to read more? Why or why not? Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Here's this week's awesome entry! 

First 50 Words – MG Entry #3

For a whole month, well, almost, I’d done everything I’d been told to do. I popped some gum in my mouth watching the other kids laughing and goofing off, acting like nothing was weird here. Yeah, right. I wanted to ditch lunch. Sneaking out wasn't easy. Unless I yelled "fire."

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Not Dear O'Abby

There were no questions for O'Abby this week, so I thought I'd do something a little different this week.

I've been doing a lot of beta reading and critiquing recently, and there are a few things I keep seeing in the various MS's I've been looking at.  So this week, let's take a look at some common mistakes people seem to make.

These are not developmental things (not this time, anyway), but writing things.  I know not all beta readers comment on these things, but I just can't help myself because bad grammar or misused words really throw me out of the story.  So here are a few things you could look for in your own work to make sure any reader you have isn't catapulted away from the action.

Sentence fragments.

These can be effective, but when overused, or used badly, they can really ruin the flow of the writing. I have read a couple of MS's recently where they were used constantly, and always without a verb in them.  And without a verb, the fragment not only didn't make sense, it didn't take the story anywhere. In most cases the fragment can be part of the preceding sentence where it makes grammatical sense.  Or just erased.  Or re-written into a full sentence.

Mis-used homonyms.

I blame spell-check for these, to some degree.  But when the same words are repeatedly misused throughout a manuscript, I have to think the writer doesn't know the difference between a cord and a chord or peek and pique.  This is where your early readers/crit partners are invaluable.

Unvaried sentences

Good writing has a rhythm and this is created by varying the length and structure of sentences.  I've read a couple of stories recently where almost every sentence and paragraph follows the same structure.  It makes the writing boring and lacks any sense to rhythm or motion.  You can create urgency and a sense of peril by using a lot of really short sentences in action sequences and slow things down by using longer, more languid ones in times of peace.  But the most important thing is to switch it up.  Try starting some sentences with a verb and seeing where that takes you.  If you notice you have a whole paragraph of sentences starting with 'I' when writing in first person, see if you can switch it up.  If all your sentences have two commas in them, see if you can break some of them into shorter sentences.  If you're using 'and' or 'but' a lot, see if there are ways to vary the sentences to get rid of a few.

Tense switching

Most books tend to be in either the present or the past tense.  But this can become complicated because people in the present look back at the past and people looking back to the past, live in the present.  Knowing which parts of the narrative to write in each tense can be difficult, but that's not an excuse to jump around, sometimes even within single paragraphs.  If you're writing in present tense and your characters are remembering something that happened previously, they can remember that event as past tense.  But any reactions they have to the memory will be in the present.  Likewise, if your characters are still living and your story is presented in a way where events of the past are being described, there may be occasions where you might use present tense to indicate a character is still the same, even now.  This is fairly difficult to do well...  Often it just comes across like you don't know what tense you're telling your story in.

And that's just a few of the things I've noticed recently.  Maybe next time there are no questions for O'Abby I'll talk about some of the developmental problems I've been seeing.

Until next time.

X O'Abby

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Selectively Keeping My Mouth Shut about My Writing


As I’m sure you all know, since I’m all you think about, I’m participating in Preptober to get ready for next month’s NaNoWriMo. The other day, I was reading the book I’m using to guide my prep work and these lines stuck out to me: 


Don’t talk about your story to others. Talking about it dissipates the urgency to write it…Carry your story with you like a delicious secret.



I couldn’t stop thinking about this. At first, I thought, “That’s BS. I should be able to talk to people about my writing all I want, and I do!” But then I realized that I’m incredibly tight-lipped about what’s going on in Writer Brain. I consider myself part of the writing community on Twitter, where I’ve been talking sporadically about my NaNoWriMo project. Last year, when I wrote GIRLS BREAK THINGS, I also commented occasionally about it on Twitter. To some extent, I LOVE talking about what I’m writing – I like to throw little ideas out there into the Twitterverse and see what kind of response they get. But for the most part, those comments are few and far between.


Most of the time, I don’t like to talk to people about what I’m working on. It’s not because it diminishes the “urgency” to write, it’s because I’m afraid of letting people down. I don’t want to tell someone, “In this manuscript, the princess rescues herself” and then they get all excited about it, and then they ask me about it later and I have to tell them “yeeaaahhhh that didn’t work out for plot reasons, now she gets rescued by a horse…” It’s a silly example, but it’s one of my top five fears. I've been let down by books too many times to not be afraid.


But in those little in-between moments, there are some people I always talk to about my writing. There are the cheerleaders, writing friends who always prop me up and tell me I’m doing great, even when I have to delete seven chapters. They’re the ones who remind me that all is not lost and the core idea is a good one. There are my critiquers, who of course have to know what’s going on so they can give me good feedback. And then there’s my bouncers, so named because I like to bounce ideas off them. They alone really know what’s going on behind the scenes as I scramble to make the cheerleaders and critiquers happy.

Deep down inside, though, I like to keep some things hidden. I like to keep a select few delicious secrets. I hardly talk about works in progress because there's a point where I want everyone to be surprised. I want those secrets to have their time to shine - and if that time is when people have the final physical book in their hands, then so be it.

What about you? Do you like to talk to readers or other writers about your work? Or do you like to keep things secret?


Monday, October 7, 2019

First 50 Critique - MG #2

Let's start this week with a bit of housekeeping.

First, THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you who commented on my first 50 words AND those of you brave souls who sent us an email with YOUR first 50 words.  You are all AWESOME!

Second, two of the First 50 Critique entries we received by email last week were misdirected and finally forwarded to us by the person who accidentally received them [hi Michelle, and thanks!]  We're not entirely sure how that happened, but we want to try to prevent that happening in the future.  So, when you send us an entry by email, please be sure to open a brand new email and address it to our gmail account at OperationAwesome6.  Click here for more info on contacting us.  Also, the entry window will probably close on a Wednesday, and we will send a confirming email to everyone who enters.  If you do NOT receive a confirming email by that following Friday, please contact us by Twitter DM and we'll track it down and/or give you an alternate email address to use.

We sent a confirming email last week to those of you who emailed us your First 50 Critique – MG.  If you sent us an email and didn't receive our confirmation, please send us a Twitter DM.

Now on to the good stuff!

For all the details of how this works, click here.  We are NOT accepting entries this week.  But if you want to enter when we DO open the entry period, you must post a critique on at least TWO previous entries before your submission will be accepted for use on the blog.

Reminder:  Be nice, but be honest.  [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.]  What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words?  Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre?  Does it have a hook?  Does it pull you into the story?  Do you want to read more?  Why or why not?  Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Here's this week's middle grade entry from an awesome OA blog reader!

First 50 Words – MG Entry #2

Crouched down, quiet as a mouse, Octavia Bloom was holding her breath. The dust floating like glitter in the old attic was tickling her nose. Laughter bubbled up inside her, which she quickly suppressed by biting down on her lip. It wouldn’t do to make a noise and give away her position behind the old striped sofa.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Multiple agents offered. How do I choose?

Dear O'Abby,

I've been querying a new book for about six months and finally got some agents interested enough in it to schedule some calls.  I wasn't expecting it, but three of the four agents I talked to made offers of representation.

So now I have to choose which one to go with.  And I have no idea how to do that.  They're all good agents - I wouldn't have queried them if they weren't - and I would be happy to work with any of them.

Do you have any advice on how to handle this situation?

Best,

Over-Agented

Dear Over-Agented,

Firstly, congratulations on having written a book that generates this kind of response.  This level of agent interest is a really positive sign!

I understand how difficult this decision is, but you're right - you have to make it.  And it's an important decision.  You are going to have to work with this agent very closely and you need to make sure your decision is a sound one.

In your calls with the agents I'm sure you talked to all of them about revisions and their plans for the book going forward.  Think hard about the comments made.  Which agent's vision for your book most aligned with your own?  Which revision suggestions really resonated with you?  This is always a good place to start.  If an agent's vision of what your book is differs from your own, it might point to problems down the track.

Think about other things you spoke about during the call.  Did the agent's communication style gel with you?  Did she explain her process when taking the book on submission?  Did she answer your questions in a way that satisfied you?

If you've got that far through and you still don't have a preference, look at the larger picture.  Does the agent work for a larger agency which will support her when her workload is large?  What books has she already sold?  Is she just starting out on her agenting career or is she experienced?  If she's new, does she have a more experienced agent mentoring or supporting her?

And don't be afraid to reach out to any of these agents other clients to ask about working with them.  If she's a good agent, she has nothing to fear from you doing this and it's an excellent way to learn from someone who is already working with them whether she responds promptly to emails or if she's good at hand-holding during nerve-wracking moments.

At the end of the day, it's decision you have to make and be happy with.  Don't ignore your gut feelings, but do your due diligence as well.  If you're lucky, this will be a long and successful relationship!

Good luck!

X O'Abby

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Holding On To Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne


1- What are some great beers to try this autumn?

@SingleCutBeer Jennie Said, @lamplighterbrew Birds of a Feather, @exhibitAbrewing Cat's Meow and @CollectiveBrew Ransack the Universe.

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

Don’t write, type. Don’t get hung up on perfection, just move your fingers.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

My mom was a writer and I always admired that. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing or telling stories. I wrote my first book at age 7 with a friend - it was an illustrated book about homophones, words that sound alike but have different meanings. One of our truly inspired illustrations was a steak on a stake.

4- What are your views on American gun reform laws?

I grew up hunting so have no problems with rifles and shotguns for that, but I find handguns terrifying and can see no justification for assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons.

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

@ecshelburne . I would shout out: @kellyjford , @jenniewoodanddid, and @emilyross

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book on a nightstand book pile?



7- In your opinion, what's one way to improve the health, and healthcare needs, of the world?

Preventative care. I grew up in a place that has a distinct lack of good primary care, and is currently subject to what looks like a truly terrible consolidation of care at the hospital level. We need more primary care doctors and more hospitals that cater to the needs of their communities.

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

The characters and the setting. I’ll read anything that it is set in Appalachia and anything that features regular people trying to live their lives.

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:Robert Gipe @robertgipe
Title: Trampoline
Love because: It’s an incredibly complex novel/graphic novel about growing up in Appalachia. Dawn Jewell is one of the toughest characters I’ve ever met, and I just couldn’t stop reading her story.


10- 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 my book hits all the emotions! There is a lot of sweetness and laughter, but also a hefty dose of sorrow in my book. I think the scene that will resonate most with people is the one in which Jeptha has to make a tough decision about his dog, Crystal Gayle.

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

I have two! I always read Amy at @thesoutherngirlreads. I love her reviews, and her stories always make me feel like I’m sitting on a porch drinking wine and talking about books with a friend. And, of course, Stacey at @Prose_and_Palate. She reads great books, has a wonderful way with words, and she and Amy have both been huge supporters of my book, for which I will forever be grateful!

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

Jeptha and Lucy don’t have a lot going for them and yet, they keep going. They keep pushing through and trying to achieve their desire. I think we all have those times in our lives and I hope their story, while sad, will leave people with some hope.

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

Cody’s mullet.

14- diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?

Right now, On the Come Up, Angie Thomas. I recently read this and loved it. Her protagonist Bri is whipsmart, so focused, and determined to triumph over her circumstances. I loved it.


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

My favorite books have come from friends telling me about a book they think I would love, whether that’s over a cup of coffee or in a conversation on social media. It’s such a joy to be able to connect someone with a book they love and reviews help do that!

16- Do you have one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

My goal with this book was to try to portray the Appalachia I grew up in more accurately than I saw it being portrayed in the news media. I’d love for people to read this interview and want to read other novels set there, such as Trampoline by @robert_gipe , Southernmost by @silasdhouse and anything by @CrystalWilki


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

Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne grew up reading, writing, and shooting in East Tennessee. After graduating from Amherst College, she worked at The Atlantic Monthly. Her nonfiction work has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Boston Globe, and Globalpost, among others and her short fiction has appeared in The Broad River Review and Barren Magazine. Her essay on how killing a deer made her a feminist was published in Click! When We Knew We Were Feminists, edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan. She is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator. She lives outside Boston with her husband and four children. You can find her at @ecshelburne(twitter), @ecshelburneauthor (instagram) and Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne (Facebook).

You can find an excerpt from the book at: https://barrenmagazine.com/some-things-lost-nothing-gained/

Or see me reading another excerpt at: https://litsnap.org/2019/04/16/holding-on-to-nothing/


Holding On To Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Preptober: Gearing Up for National Novel Writing Month


I know what you're thinking: "NaNoWriMo ALREADY??? Pump the brakes, Ortega, NaNoWriMo isn’t for another month!”


Yeah well I’m an overachiever I guess. I’m also very, very superstitious. And it's time to start planning.
Image result for preptober
Image courtesy of Fangirl Likes

Last year, I used the 90-Day Novel process to prep for NaNoWriMo. In this post from last October, I was only on day twelve and very worried about actually keeping up with the daily writing requirements. Well, as it turns out, the process worked really well for me and acted as a super awesome amazing rad way to get myself in the right mindset for writing that manuscript. And ultimately, that’s the manuscript that helped me sign with my agent. So I’d say the foundations I laid down last October were not a waste of time.


Of course, my superstitious habit-driven brain has been screaming at me for the past month that I have to do things exactly the same way this year or I WILL FAIL.


Being in my brain is fun J


Anyway. I’m starting the prep process on October 3. For the past month, I’ve been writing down ideas as they came to me – my coworkers think I’m a very diligent note-taker, and I am, but it’s half work stuff and half fiction – and I already have about 30 pages of world building, character notes, and a rough outline. I'm very excited to get started, but I'm also trying to manage my expectations. I very much doubt that things are going to go as well as they did last year. But I can dream.

Anybody else doing NaNoWriMo prep in October, aka Preptober? How do you prepare? Are you more of a pantser or a planner, or maybe a plantser? Drop a comment and let us know!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Introducing First 50 Word Critiques!

Happy Monday all you awesome OA readers!  We're gonna try something new.
~~~Drumroll~~~
First 50 word critiques!

Here's how we envision this working, but if you have suggestions for changes, please let us know!

Step one – we post someone's first 50 words [approximately, don't stop in the middle of a sentence].

Step two – folks like you, yes YOU, leave a critique in the comments.  Be nice, but be honest.  [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.]  What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words?  Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre?  Does it have a hook?  Does it pull you into the story?  Do you want to read more?  Why or why not?  Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Step three – anyone who leaves a comment can email us their own first 50 words IN THAT CATEGORY/GENRE.

Step four – depending on how many emails we get, we'll post 1-2 each Monday over the next several Mondays for critiques.

Step five – once we either run out of entries OR we decide to move on [haven't figured this part out yet], we'll post a new category/genre for the following series.  If you've posted a nice/honest/helpful critique on at least TWO previous entries, we'll consider your first 50 words for inclusion.  This means that even if you don't write in the category/genre that's currently on the blog, you still need to comment if you might want to submit an entry in the future.

Our first category/genre is middle grade [MG] [because that's what I write, and I'm using my first 50 words to start this].  Since this is our first round, you obviously can't comment on at least two previous entries.  So if you write MG and you want to submit your first 50 words for critique, you MUST comment and critique my first 50 in the comment section of THIS blog post.  For future rounds, you'll need to post a critique on at least TWO previous entries before you'll be able to submit.  [And don't wait until the day you email us and go back and post a critique on an entry from several months ago.  We'll notice.]  This will only work if everyone plays fair.

Then send us an email formatted as follows [if this idea works out, we'll probably make a google form, but for now let's do it this way]:

The subject of the email MUST say “First 50 Critique – MG”.  Otherwise it will get lost in all the emails we receive.

The FIRST sentence in your email must state “The following 50 words are my own work and I give OA permission to post it on the OA blog for the life of the blog.”

Next, write “I commented on the entries posted on [date] and [date] as [your online ID].”

Then copy/paste your first 50 words into the email.

We will NOT include your name or other identifying information in the post.  Just your first 50 words.

So here's how the email will look for this first round:

Subject:  First 50 Critique – MG

The following 50 words are my own work and I give OA permission to post it on the OA blog for the life of the blog.

I commented on the entry posted on Monday September 30, 2019 as [your online ID].

My first 50 words:

[Copy/paste your first 50 words here.]

UPDATE: Two of the First 50 Critique entries we received by email last week were misdirected and finally forwarded to us by the person who accidentally received them [hi Michelle, and thanks!]  We're not entirely sure how that happened, but we want to try to prevent that happening in the future.  So, when you send us an entry by email, please be sure to open a brand new email and address it to our gmail account at OperationAwesome6.  Click here for more info on contacting us.  Also, the entry window will probably close on a Wednesday, and we will send a confirming email to everyone who enters.  If you do NOT receive a confirming email by that following Friday, please contact us by Twitter DM and we'll track it down and/or give you an alternate email address to use.

That's it!  Entries will be accepted until end of day on Wednesday October 2.  So leave a comment on THIS blog post on my first 50 words [see below] and send your MG entries now!

Reminder:  Be nice, but be honest.  [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.]  What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words?  Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre?  Does it have a hook?  Does it pull you into the story?  Do you want to read more?  Why or why not?  Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

First 50 Words - MG Entry #1:

Her father never gave her a name. "You're nothing but a smudge," he'd said, with extra emphasis on the word smudge. “A smudge does not have a name.”

He'd flashed the thought at her with so much force, she staggered back as if he'd slapped her.

That was the day, several years ago, when she'd asked to go to school.


Friday, September 27, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry #5

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agent Kelly Peterson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry #5:  DINOSAUR YARD


Query


DINOSAUR YARD is 44,000-word middle grade contemporary fantasy. It’s Daniel José Older’s Dactyl Hill Squad[KP1] meets Ken Liu’s short story Literomancer[KP2] in its celebration of intergenerational and cross-cultural friendships.[KP3]

Everything is connected. At least according to 12-year-old Maggie Roy it is. If she can avoid the sidewalk cracks, her parents will live to a hundred. If she can count to twenty before passing that street sign, she’ll get a good mark on the math test. Deep down, she knows this isn’t real, but she can’t help herself.[KP4]

The only person who really understands her is her best friend and next-door neighbour, Mr. Macklemore. When he moves away to a special retirement residence, Maggie is lost without him. Her only company is the life-size dinosaur figurines in the yard across the road. Things get worse when she learns he has Alzheimer’s and isn’t getting better.

After half a lonely summer in the quiet stretch of farmland where she lives, a Korean family moves into his old house. Maggie is overjoyed to meet Priscilla. They are the same age and immediately bond over an enormous love for food and a curiosity for each other’s cultures. As their friendship blooms, something strange happens…

The dinosaurs across the road begin to move. In the stillness of night, the triceratops, the stegosaurus, the T-Rex, they all come to life. It’s all connected.

One morning, Maggie wakes to a horrible surprise: the baby diplodocus has disappeared. Soon after, she learns Mr. Macklemore’s condition has worsened. This is no coincidence. As more dinosaurs go missing, he grows more ill.

The girls must race against time to solve the mystery before it’s too late… before all the dinosaurs have vanished, and Mr. Macklemore is lost to his disease. And the link could be something neither girl could ever have imagined.[KP5]

*****
Kelly's comments:
[KP1]
Italicized
[KP2] Quotation marks for short story titles.
[KP3] Taking a quick look, this is a LONG query. This should be shortened to 2-3 paragraphs.
[KP4] Cut most of this, as it’s not really needed. Let your character speak through your voice ,and then we can find all the nuances of her through reading.
[KP5] Can you combine these three paragraphs? There’s a lot here that seems able to be condensed into one paragraph rather than spreading into three.

First 250


The diplodocus shadow stretched out over the sea of wheat as the sun dipped closer to the horizon. Its already long neck extended impossibly until no more rays remained for the illusion.[KP6]

For yet another day, Maggie sat on the gentle slope of the roof outside her bedroom window, and the dark forms[KP7] crawled along the ground.

In the winter, when it was too cold for the roof, she pressed her nose against frosty glass and monitored the progression of shadows creeping over snow-laden fields, sleeping crops below.

Rays of orange fire pierced the sky. Maggie retreated inside her bedroom and retrieved her logbook to draw one more line next to the series of hashes. Eight hundred and ninety lines preceded today's. That made two years, five months and nine days.

"Maggie." Her father's voice soared up the stairs. "Dinner is ready!"

She thumped down to the kitchen. Out the window beside the dining table sat the empty neighbour's house. For months, the For Sale sign hung on rusty hinges, creaking in the wind. For months, Maggie hoped for a new best friend to move in next door. For months, Maggie knew deep down that no one could ever replace Mr. Macklemore.[KP8]

That evening, the sign brandished a new word–

"Did you see they finally sold the old Macklemore place?" Maggie's father interrupted her thoughts as he reached across the table for the casserole. He slopped a pile of hot, creamy rice and vegetables down.[KP9]

*****
Kelly's comments:
[KP6]
Expository and not needed. Start with your character and their goals!
[KP7] Forms? Shadows? People? Magical shadowy beasts?
[KP8] This is good, but it doesn’t give us quite enough of an insight as to who Maggie is and what she WANTS. What are her emotions like? You’re simply stating that she hoped for someone to move in, but not how she FEELS about the house being abandoned. I’d like to see you dive more into emotions here and enable your readers to feel for her and connect with her on a deeper level.
[KP9] I actually kind of love your voice and this premise. I’m not huge on dinosaurs, but I’m enjoying the quirkiness of all of this! I’m going to say Pages!

Results:  Pages! When you’re ready, can you send me your query, synopsis, and first 50 pages (attached) to Kelly@reesagency.com? Just make sure to put “Submission” somewhere in the email title!



Thursday, September 26, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry #4

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agent Kelly Peterson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry #4:  WATER SCROLL


Query


Twelve-year-olds Danvis and Danvic, aka “The Twins”, have an unfortunate curse. The brothers are cursed to share one identity. They do everything the same, including thinking and speaking in unison.[KP1]

The Twins think they’re nothing more than the village’s outcasts until they learn they’re the descendants of the Water Keepers—twin legendary heroes who had powers over the element water.

This discovery of their ancestry catches the attention of Princess Salina. She offers them friendship with one request: get the Water Scroll—the source that gave their ancestors their powers—so they can become the next Water Keepers. Her father’s advisor, Forvayin, is plotting to take over the throne, and she needs a hero to stop him.[KP2]

The Twins agree to her request. Not only will they get friends, but they’ll get to be more than just cursed freaks. They could be heroes.[KP3] However, the Scroll has been locked away for centuries, requiring four keys scattered across the kingdom. The journey to collect the keys won’t be easy, and when Forvayin himself finds out about Salina’s plan, he’ll do anything to make sure The Twins are dead.

WATER SCROLL is a completed 60,000-word MG fantasy novel for kids who love adventure stories such as SEVEN WONDERS and NEVERMORE.

*****
Kelly's comments:
[KP1]
Does there need to be two of them if they do everything exactly the same and think the same?
[KP2] I would put this before Salina’s request or with it so that it doesn’t seem like she’s just coming to them or helping them for no reason.
[KP3] Where is their agency within this query? Why do they make this decision? They can’t be Water Keepers without the princess telling them what to do and working for her?

First 250


Liberty Day was the worst holiday ever.

The Twins lay flat on their stomachs, taking up all the floor space in their treehouse home. For the past five—maybe ten—minutes, they tried rereading the same paragraph from their book Legends of The Land of Waves. The scent of freshly baked pastries seeped through the walls as cheery voices slipped through the shutters. Everyone from Little Pond Village crowded the road below their tree; the Liberty Day Festival had begun.

Of course, The Twins weren’t invited.

It wasn’t the village’s fault for hating them. They were cursed to have no separate identities after all.[KP4] Rarely a foot apart, they did everything the same, including speaking and thinking in unison. The fact they’d suddenly showed up with no parents two years ago hadn’t help matters manners either.

Yes, The Twins were freaks.

Suddenly, a rock knocked the shutters open; The Twins flinched. A wave of baked pastries flooded into the treehouse, and they dug their nails into the floorboards, their shoulders tensing up. A second rock flew inside, and a voice yelled, “Haha! Got you freaks!”[KP5]

Yep, happy Liberty Day.

The Twins ran their hands through their hair, shaking out a few auburn strands. Maybe a different book would distract them. Together they both reached for the stack of books in the corner, pulled the top one, and flipped it open. They couldn’t help moving in sync—thanks to their curse.[KP6]

Another rock zoomed inside.[KP7]


*****
Kelly's comments:
[KP4] Slightly awkward phrasing here.
[KP5] Confused why people throwing baked pastries through a window would make them dig their nails into the floorboards?
[KP6] If they move perfectly in sync, does that mean there’s two separate bookshelves and the same books on each bookshelf so that they can move perfectly together, or do they have to break their in sync movements in order to both pull the same book from the shelf and one of them has to flip the pages? Reading one book together would give them separate movements, even just by the slightest degree, while having two copies of each book and reading it at the same time would allow them to have exact simultaneous movements.
[KP7] Your premise just isn’t pulling me in enough with stakes and agency, so I’m going to have to pass.

Results:  Pass


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry #3

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agent Kelly Peterson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry #3:  I AM NOBODY


Query


Max Haze, an introverted middle-schooler, is changed forever when he is struck by lightning. The rare incident gives him the ability to teleport anywhere in the world. Max's best and only friend, Amy, thinks Max’s super power is the coolest thing to ever happen, a dream come true, and his chance to be a hero.

Max is less thrilled. Unable to think past the potential danger of getting hurt or being wanted by the government, Max gives in to his anxiety, and decides to hide his power and makes Amy swear to keep his ability a secret.[KP1] The only problem is, someone already knows. When they[KP2] come forward with a threat against Amy, Max must decide to maintain his anonymity or protect his friend. Either way, his life will never be the same.[KP3]

I AM NOBODY[KP4] is a middle-grade magical magic-realism fantasy novel, complete at 39,000 words and will appeal to fans of "Aru Shah and the End of Time"[KP5] by Roshani Chokshi and "Wing & Claw"[KP6] by Linda Sue Park. It is a stand alone in a potential series and features racially diverse and LGBTQ+ characters.

I've been an English teacher in a public school (grades 6-8) for eight years. I am very familiar with my target audience; children between 10-15 years old, including boys, girls, and LGBTQ+ individuals. As an avid reader of MG and YA novels, I believe I AM NOBODY would be a strong addition to the current MG market. Thank you for your consideration!

*****
Kelly's comments:
[KP1] Bit of a run-on sentence here. I’d suggest condensing this sentence and breaking it up a bit so that your reader can follow effortlessly.
[KP2] I would make it apparent that the “they” in this sentence refers to the person who knows his secret. Also, I’m a bit confused as to how they would know Amy was his friend.
[KP3] Contemplating whether you actually need this sentence or not. I’m a big fan of ending on the stakes and leaving your audience with that, but at the same time, I kind of like this sentence as a final hitter.
[KP4] Love this title!
[KP5] Italicized, not quoted. =)
[KP6] Italicized. =)


First 250


A string of electricity bridged the gap between Max Haze's finger and the microwave before he felt its sting. The morning walk down the carpeted stairs in his socks generated enough static to shock himself nearly every morning. No matter how many times it happened, he was always surprised. He wasn't sure if he genuinely forgot or looked forward to the morning jolt. As he pondered the thought, Max's mom tousled his short, brown hair.

"There aren't any secrets of the universe in the microwave dear."

Max choked a laugh and pulled out his sandwich. "Gee thanks Mom, I didn't notice." He watched her pour a thermos full of coffee and adjust her blue scrubs.

Looking back towards him, she commented, "I heard from Dad this morning He has to fly directly to Houston for the next week, so it'll be you and me." Her auburn hair was pulled into a bun and her green eyes looked glossy. Her extra long nurse shifts were often busy and chaotic. Max's father was in pharmaceutical sales, so he did quite a bit of traveling. He was incredibly charismatic and fun which made him a great salesman and dad, so they missed him quite a bit while he was gone on long trips.[KP7]

Max smiled, "That's a bummer.[KP8] What's your schedule like this week?"

"We're short staffed so who knows."[KP9]

*****
Kelly's comments:
[KP7] Little bit of expository detail here. Do we have to know all of this right now? We’re learning a lot just from their conversation.
[KP8] If he’s sad about it, why is he smiling?
[KP9] I love the stakes in this manuscript, but I’m not much of a superhero and powers type of person, so I’m going to unfortunately pass.

Results:  Pass






Tuesday, September 24, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry #2

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agent Kelly Peterson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry #2:  OCTAVIA BLOOM AND THE MISSING KEY


Query


Dear Agent

I am seeking representation for my 38,500-word debut MG Fairy Tale / Magic Realism novel with fairytale influences, Octavia Bloom and the Missing Key.[KP1]

At almost 10, thank you very much, Octavia Bloom is desperate for adventure, unaware that it awaits tantalisingly close behind a tiny, magical, golden door - if only she could find the key that opens it.

What started out as an ordinary day finds Octavia Bloom playing hide and seek in the forbidden attic of her family's ancestral Castle, Octavia Bloom's. The day swiftly turns extraordinary with the discovery of a hidden Fairy Door. Setting out to investigate she finds that her family are hiding not one, but two life-changing secrets. Along with her sister, cousins and a talking mouse she embarks on a dangerous quest, taking her through the miniature door and into Fairy Land. Needing to locate a magical flower in order to make a cure to save her secret twin brother Otto,[KP2] she enlists the help of the good Fairy Queen and an ensemble of magical characters. The evil fairy Queen puts many obstacles in their way,[KP3] but they are victorious in obtaining the flower and restoring Otto.[KP4] The adventure takes a sinister turn as Octavia’s cousin Beatrice is kidnapped by the evil fairy Queen and a battle ensues to rescue her.[KP5] They are triumphant and return home together as a family.

Thank you for your time and consideration.[KP6]

*****
Kelly's comments:
[KP1] Title should be all capitalized since it’s an unpublished work.
[KP2] Otto should probably be introduced into the query earlier so that the agent/editor has an idea this is happening and why she would NEED to find the flower. How does it cure him? Why does he need to be cured in the first place? How did she find out she has a secret twin brother?
[KP3] Can you be specific here? What does she conquer?
[KP4] Claiming this now and restoring Otto gets rid of your stakes before the story is actually resolved. I’m wondering if this might not be better off saving restoring Otto for last, and having her cousin getting kidnapped WHILE they’re searching for the flower.
[KP5] What are your stakes here? What would happen if they don’t rescue her? What would happen if they don’t find a cure for Otto? Your query shouldn’t give away your ending and it should leave a reader on their toes with the stakes and really wanting to know what happens.
[KP6] Insert a biography paragraph here.

First 250


Dust hung in the air, suspended in the golden light slanting across the faded floorboards. From behind an old, striped couch a swatch of yellow could be seen. Crouched down, quiet as a mouse, Octavia Bloom was holding her breath,[KP7] which was very difficult to do; the dust floating like glitter in the old attic was tickling her nose. Laughter bubbled up inside her, which she quickly suppressed by biting down on her lip, it wouldn’t do to make a noise now and give away her position. If she kept quiet, she was certain to win this round of hide and seek, her silly sister and annoying cousins wouldn't think to look up here.[KP8] The attic at Grandmother's House was strictly forbidden.

Well, it was actually a Castle, rather than a House, cut into the craggy cliffs with the thundering waves below, you could[KP9] imagine great battles being fought and terrifying pirates having many adventures here. Octavia wasn't afraid though, she was nearly ten thank you very much, she often slipped up to the attic when no one was looking to have adventures of her own. She brought her handmade dolls and handfuls of moss and played fairy land in the patch of weak sunlight, nibbling on crumbly biscuits snatched from the kitchen. Many idyllic hours had passed here when Grandmother was having her afternoon nap. Leaving her sister and cousins to their giggling chatter, Octavia would sneak off, always looking for adventure.[KP10][KP11]

*****
Kelly's comments:
[KP7] This makes a lot stronger of a beginning! I’d suggest cutting the first two sentences out completely
[KP8] These adjectives are making it seem as if Octavia really doesn’t like her sister or her cousins, and it’s putting them down. What type of person is Octavia? Does she enjoy time with her family? Is she positive and a leader, or is she negative and a pessimist? These adjectives are making me think she leans quite a bit negative.
[KP9] Don’t address the reader and break the 4th wall! =) This is a bit of subjective bias, but I can’t stand when I’m addressed because it pulls me out of the story and reminds me that I’m in reality.
[KP10] So this is a bit of an info dump and I’d prefer to stay with Octavia in the moment for a while, sprinkling the first chapter with these types of tidbits. When you go into this type of expository detail, as well, it puts your voice into a higher reader level and making it sound as if you’re switching over to an adult manuscript and voice, as opposed to staying with the middle grade
[KP11] Overall, there’s a lot of grammar inconsistencies and mistakes in here that are making it a bit hard to read. Because this also sounds very similar in a way to The Chronicles of Narnia, I’m going to have to pass. Best of luck!

Results:  Pass



Monday, September 23, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry #1

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agent Kelly Peterson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry #1:  THE WAY IT IS, 1959


Query


I would like to submit my middle grade historical manuscript, THE WAY IT IS, 1959, with embedded poetry and complete at 41,000 words for your consideration.[KP1]

PATSY DANCY, a ten-year-old white girl, hates change with a purple passion and despises how grownups never answer her many questions. Living on the cusp of social changes in Charlotte, North Carolina, Patsy struggles with peer relationships and a school bully, with discord inside her family, and with new racial attitudes in her southern culture as traditional roles are redefined. She searches for answers and her place in this world of racial segregation, family secrets, and white gloves worn to church on Sunday. I believe the novel could have series potential.[KP2]

Patsy is a “noticer”. She questions the inequitable treatment of “Coloreds” and wonders why the rules change from whites to Negroes. To her, the rules should be the same for all, no matter the skin color. If Skeeter from THE HELP was in fifth grade, she would be Patsy.[KP3]  Patsy’s opinion in a world of segregation proves unpopular with her white friends, even her best friend, even her teacher. The person at the top of her trust list is Viola, the colored maid next door.[KP4]

For a girl who hates change, this year’s a doozy and throws Patsy into a tizzy. She is targeted by the most notorious bully in the school—"Wayne the Tormentor”.  She fears a showdown will be unavoidable. She fills a red journal, hidden under her bed, with her questions and poems. Patsy’s poems appear at the end of chapters. As 1959 ends, Patsy worries about what 1960 will bring. She feels as if a storm is brewing and heading her way—an unstoppable storm of change. Tarnation, what can she do but grow through it?[KP5] That’s just the way it is.[KP6][KP7][KP8]

*****
Kelly's comments:
[KP1] This would be a great place to put in a personalization! “Because of your love of MG Historical novels with a southern feel, I would like to submit…”
[KP2] This paragraph should introduce your character and what their drive is. What do they want? What are their goals? Who are the main characters?
[KP3] The difference I see here between The Help and your query is that your query is about the young, white girl version of Skeeter, whereas The Help is focused on people of color and the stories that they have to share. It’s focused on raising their voices up to be heard, rightly so. How does THE WAY IT IS lift the people of color in your story and their voices up to be heard and help to influence everyone’s lives for the better?
[KP4] This paragraph should introduce the turning point of the story and what happens to get in the way of those goals or interrupt the story and change her goals. What is the inciting incident to catalyze the story?
[KP5] You need a bio paragraph after this. =)
[KP6] This paragraph should be the decisions made in lieu of the inciting incident and how that creates the stakes. What is she going to do about the incident and her obstacles? What stakes will she face if she succeeds or fails?
[KP7] Saying it’s just the way it is diminishes her agency to be able to do anything throughout the story. If she accepted life as it was and had no goals and nothing to stand up for, then there wouldn’t be any story. What are the stakes here? What does she want? What will happen if she doesn’t succeed?
[KP8] Make sure this isn’t giving away the ending of your novel. What are the stakes? Leave the agent/editor wanting to read more in order to find out what happens. Don’t give them the resolution.


First 250


“Patsy, stop that infernal daydreaming!” The words whooshed out of Mother like air from a punctured bicycle tire. Then after a sharp inhale, “Don’t you drop that sheet in the dirt!”

“Yes, ma’am.” I grabbed the wet sheet corner and sniffed the unmistakable scent of Clorox. Mother would have a hissy-fit for sure if I let go of the sheet.

Boy Howdy, Mother always interrupted my daydreams. I conjured up another as I held up the sheet. Winter. Snow. I was tramping through mounds of fresh snow wearing show shoes woven from cane.  I sank to my knees with each step…[KP9]

“Patsy?” Mother called my name with an arched eyebrow.

Dang it! Busted again. How does she do it?[KP10] I swiped away a sweat mustache with the back of my free hand, then licked the salt from my lips. Lordy mordy.[KP11] Mother thinks August and chores go together like bread and mayonnaise.

Perspiration dripped onto the lenses of my glasses. Do they make glasses with windshield wipers? I pushed the mother-of-pearl frames up for the umpteenth time and wished I’d pulled my hair into a ponytail this morning. It hung thick around my neck and shoulders like the Cowardly Lion’s mane in The Wizard of Oz.

The sweet scent of honeysuckle drifted towards me from branches draped over the fence behind the clothesline. Daddy’ll be home in a few hours, I thought,[KP12] and pressed my lips together. That familiar, uneasy-butterfly-feeling began in the pit of my stomach again.[KP13]

*****
Kelly's comments:
[KP9] Does this daydream need to be here? It might be easier to connect us with your main character a bit more before diving into the depths of her mind and imagination, as that essentially means you have to build two worlds (reality and a dream world) as opposed to one. 
[KP10] Busted doing what? Is she simply day dreaming and moving through the motions, or does she stop day moving/working while she day dreams? I think some physicality before this to clarify what her mother sees when she calls Patsy out would be helpful in order to visualize the scene.
[KP11] There’s a lot of older slang in these first few paragraphs. I’d suggest introducing slang a bit more slowly, as your readers won’t know what they mean until you use them a few times in very purposeful locations. It also forces your reader to pull away from your manuscript when you put sayings and words in there that they can’t necessarily connect with or use quick context clues to grasp.
[KP12] Thoughts are usually italicized.
[KP13] Unfortunately, I’m just not connecting with the voice and premise, so I’m going to have to pass.

Results:  Pass










Thursday, September 19, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Ooops! I wrote a sequel.

Dear O'Abby,

I've had this idea for a book for a long time now.  I even tried to write this book about ten years ago, but ended up writing a YA about the characters as teenagers instead because that backstory seemed really important to understand.  Now I feel like I'm finally ready to write the book I intended to write originally.  The YA was never published, but as I set out to write the adult book about these characters 15 years on, I'm wondering if it would make sense to publish that first book? The new one is, essentially, a sequel.... Or should I keep it as a marketing tool for when the new book comes out?  I could give it away as a free gift with purchase or something.

Any advice on this will be gratefully accepted.

Yours,

Unwritten

Dear Unwritten,

It sounds to me like the YA you wrote was something you did for yourself as a way to discover your characters and their personalities and voices, and how they came to be the people they are today.  I don't know if that book has a compelling storyline or arc or any of those things, so I can't really tell you if it's something you should publish, or give away.  That's something only you (and maybe your agent, if you have one) can decide.

It sounds like the new book is going to be an adult book, so I'm not certain a YA about the same characters will even be a useful marketing tool because the target audiences for the two categories are different.  It is certainly an interesting idea.  I've never heard of something like that being done before, but that doesn't mean it hasn't.

To be honest, I think you're putting the cart before the horse a little here because it sounds like you haven't even written the new book yet.  And writing a new book takes time.  So I don't think this is something you need to be worrying or even thinking about at this stage.  Just get your butt in chair and write that new book.  When it's done, that's when you can start thinking about the marketing and how this earlier book could be used to sell the new one.  Or if it even can be.

Do any of our readers have any input on this one? Have you ever seen a YA book used as a marketing tool for an adult sequel?

X O'Abby

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Avery Ames' Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Cambiare by Avery Ames


1- Are you doing #NaNoWriMo this year, and if so, how are you preparing for it?

Yes! This will be my fourteenth NaNoWriMo! I've managed to win every year so far. This November, I'll be drafting the Cambiare sequel, so I have a pretty solid idea of the plot already. But even with an outline, NaNoWriMo always involves a few left turns, and I'm ready to think on my feet if I need to.

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

Develop a routine and stick to it. Whether that's 15 minutes in the morning before the kids wake up, or 30 minutes twice a week between classes. Most of my work is written on lunch breaks.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I think my answer is similar to a lot of writers; I've always been a storyteller. I love the magic of creating something from nothing, of using stories to connect to other people. I started even before I could recognize letters on a page, making up my own fairy tales for my parents. Eventually, I moved on to writing it all down, and I just never stopped.

4- What is your favorite beverage?

I'm a huge tea fanatic. I love making my own blends, including some inspired by my books. My current favorite is an almond blackberry earl grey. I also enjoy going to antique malls to find old teapots and teacups.

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

You can find me at @AveryAmes, and I'd love to point people in the direction of my online writing buddies @DCMcNaughton and @ReneeSue.

6- Would you share a picture with us of you with your book celebrating publication?

I recently got to participate in my local library's Local Author Day event, which acted as a small debut even though my official on-sale date isn't until September 17th!


7- What's one positive and one negative about your protagonist and antagonist?

Cirelle, my protagonist, is incredibly tenacious. When she puts her mind to something, she won't back down. Her major setback is the bipolar disorder that causes her emotional stress and sometimes leads to rash decisions. The antagonist, Adaleth, is quite clever but is very xenophobic.

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

Compelling characters. That's the long and short of it. I can become invested in just about any genre or any plot, as long as the characters are intriguing and complex. Although enthusiastic word-of-mouth from friends will motivate me to read anything.

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: @RobinHobb
Title: Assassin's Apprentice
Love because: Hobb does character-driven fantasy unbelievably well. I've reread her books many times and I still feel emotionally invested in her characters every single time.


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

@naominspired on Twitter has been so amazingly supportive of my book from the moment she read it, and has sent me some lovely compliments on the romantic tension in the novel.

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 want to evoke the sense of atmosphere and wonder that all great fairy tales capture. I also love to torment readers with a frustratingly slow-burn romantic rollercoaster. I hope the scenes where Cirelle struggles with her intrusive thoughts will strike an emotional chord with readers, both those who are fighting their own battles with mental illness, and those who are not.

12 - What is your favorite thing about autumn?

I love the smell of fall. Fallen leaves and rain, apples and pumpkin and spice. It's so warm and cozy. As soon as I catch a whiff of an autumn-themed candle, it makes me want to curl up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea and a good book.

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

I wrote a book I would have needed to read in the worst parts of my life. A story about a how someone with mental illness can still be a hero, and how a woman can still be strong and powerful without knowing how to fight.

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

Ellian, Cirelle's faerie employer, has eyes that act as mood rings, changing color alongside his emotions. He also doesn't like to sit still and fidgets with his hands often.

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

As well as sharing my bipolar II, Cirelle is unashamedly bisexual. Her love interest, Ellian, is pan. Most of the other characters fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella as well, though some of those will be detailed further in later books.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I watch most of my book reviews on Youtube, and Thoughts on Tomes is a personal favorite youtube.com/user/ThoughtsOnTomes

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

I chose to self-publish because this story seemed better-suited to it. Cambiare toes the line between adult and new adult, and the romantic fairy tale atmosphere was a good fit in the indie market. Also, I loved getting to choose my cover artist and editor as well as setting my own deadlines and schedule. It's not easy, though, and you definitely have to be self-motivated!

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

Reviews are so crucial ; think of the last time you took a chance on an unknown author with 2 book reviews. Then think of the last time you impulse-bought a book because it had dozens (or hundreds) of reviews with a decent rating. Plus, in the end, getting more people to read the books you love just means more people to made headcanons and geek out with.

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

My book is heavily influenced by fairy tales and folklore; what's your favorite classic or modern fairy tale and why?

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

ABOUT ME:

I'm a graphic designer currently residing in the United States. A lifelong lover of lush fantasy, I write novels that toe the line between glittery and dark, for lovers of fairy tales and everything gothic. When not writing, I can be found playing video games, creating replica costumes, making candles, or concocting new tea blends.

To find out more about me and my books, check out http://averyames.com or follow me on Twitter @AveryAmes

ABOUT MY BOOK:

Cambiare comes out on September 17th, 2019!

Amazon: http://bit.ly/amzn-cambiare
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/pb-cambiare
Goodreads: https://goodreads.com/book/show/46288136-cambiare
CAMBIARE Avery Ames's Debut Author Spotlight

CAMBIARE BLURB:

Everyone knows the fae are dangerous. Beautiful, capricious creatures, they are as enticing as they are forbidden.

When Princess Cirelle’s brother falls deathly ill, there’s only one sure way to save him: a secret bargain with one of the fae folk. The cost? A year of servitude in the mystical faerie realm. But Cirelle’s new fae master, Ellian, holds secrets even deadlier than his charming smile.

Caught in the glittering and blood-soaked world of the fae, the hedonistic Unseelie Court kindles something new—something dark and delicious—within Cirelle, even as it twists Ellian ever more inhuman. Can Cirelle unravel Ellian’s mysteries and survive long enough to return home before she succumbs to the decadent depravity of the fae?


Cambiare by Avery Ames