Monday, September 26, 2016

September Pass Or Pages Entry #1

Time for our favorite part of Pass Or Pages, the feedback reveals! We hope that everyone following along will get something out of these reveals that they can apply to their own writing. I did!
We are so grateful to our agent panel for critiquing these entries. We would also like to give a shout-out to the authors for being brave and willing to improve.



THIS IS HOW WE FALL APART is a 94,000-word young adult fantasy novel told in four points of view. It is a standalone with series potential that would appeal to readers of Jennifer A. Nielson's THE FALSE PRINCE and Rachel Neumeier's THE FLOATING ISLANDS.[RN1][SN1][KA1]

When Nytes first appeared twenty years ago, gifted with supernatural powers, inhuman strength[KA2], and the ability to breathe freely in the toxic wasteland Outside[SN2][KA3] the domed cities, they were labeled as demons. Now, the only way to survive[SN3] is to pretend to be normal. But not all Nytes are content to continue hiding.[RN2]

Seventeen-year-old Lai Cathwell is good at keeping secrets. Being a mind reader and having to feign insanity to escape military service has only improved her ability to deceive others.[KA4] And as a supernaturally gifted Nyte, this skill is essential to survival.[RN3] But when the rebel Nytes' latest attack on the city ends in multiple deaths, Lai is asked[SN4] to return to the military[SN5] in order to fight with a new team of Nytes. Wanting to bridge the gap between Nytes and normal humans by taking down the ungifted-hating rebels, she reluctantly agrees, but the team is hardly what she imagined.[RN4][KA5] She butts heads with Al, a short-tempered fighter lying about her identity for the sake of revenge; Jay, a self-conscious perfectionist obsessed with being accepted; and Erik, an amnesiac hell-bent on finding his memories and his place in the world.[SN6] And if this team can't learn to work together, the entire city will be plunged into war.[RN5]

Together, these four unlikely soldiers will have to come to terms with their pasts and each other before they have any hope of stopping an all-out civil war. But trust isn't a currency that's easy to earn or spend[RN6], and the more these teammates learn about each other, the less reason they have to invest. No one can be trusted—especially among themselves.

Renee's Notes:
[RN1] This is a solid paragraph. I personally prefer it at the end of query, but it’s not really that important.
[RN2] This paragraph, though interesting world building, doesn’t add to the immediacy of your character’s journey. And you mention most of the important points (supernatural skills, living in secret, etc.) in your next paragraph anyway.
[RN3] The only necessary piece from your first paragraph is that Nytes are feared as demons and shunned. All you would have to do is add that in one of these sentences.
[RN4]I don’t get a real sense of what is at stake for Lai. No idea of what’s driving her. To me, that’s essential for a good query.
[RN5]These supporting characters are super interesting! I feel like I know more about them than I do about Lai.
[RN6]I like this turn of phrase.

Sarah's Notes:
[SN1] This is a classic example of a great opening to a query. Some agents prefer for this type of info to go at the bottom of the query, but some like it at the top. Since you are establishing that there are 4 POV characters, I like it at the top. Well done.
[SN2]So I'm assuming that this is capitalized because it is a proper noun, but they way you are using it in this sentence it isn't and that threw me. In general, you want to avoid using as many proper nouns as you can in a query, so I would suggest changing this to lower case.
[SN3] Sounds like they are actually really good at surviving. I suggest being more specific. What happens to the ones who aren't hiding. Are they killed? Sent to prison? Forced into experiments? Consider: The only way to avoid capture and certain death is to pretend to be normal. This is a stronger sentence that tells us what exactly they are hiding from.
[SN4]By whom? And why would she do it? You say to bridge the gap between these rebels and humans, but if the humans are killing Nytes, and she is one, why would she want to help them.
Keep in mind these aren't all questions that you have to answer in your query, but right now there is some world building confusion that is making it hard for me to understand and care about the journey your character is about to take.  
[SN5]So this is where I'm a little confused. In the first paragraph you establish that they only way for a Nyte to survive is to pretend they aren't one. But this makes it sound like the government has established a special wing of the military just for Nytes. So not everyone is pretending?
[SN6]  This is really well done

Kurestin's Notes:
[KA1]I would suggest moving this to the end. While it's not necessarily a problem to have it up front, it is often a stronger choice to lead with something that will hook me into your manuscript. Housekeeping details tend to engage my "skim" instinct.
[KA2]It seems like inhuman strength would qualify under the supernatural powers heading
[KA3]Capital letters on Significant Nouns feels a bit cliche nowadays 
[KA4]I had to retrace my steps a couple of times on this sentence, which isn't good. Make it more clear and more gripping, with a less awkward rhythm.
[KA5]More awkward phrasing, and I'm not very drawn in by the motivation here. I'd like to feel a more specific connection to what Lai wants out of this and out of life, beyond just a general peace. Or why that peace is so personal and specific for her, if it is.

First 250:

Somehow, sneaking back into the asylum is always harder than sneaking out of it.

Normally I wouldn't worry, but I've never come back this late before. Past the reflective cover of the overhead dome, the sky is already a weak gray, steadily infecting the clouds with a light shade of orange-pink. It feels like the whole sector is watching as I pick my way through the trees surrounding the mental hospital.

I absently run a hand through my hair, tangling the long, neat strands into bedhead[SN1] as I debate how to get in. The barred windows are a no-go. I can usually sneak in through the head doctor's office, but he's probably at his desk by now. Which leaves the main entrance.

From the shadows of the trees, I scan the front doors, but no one seems to be around. I can't hear anyone's thoughts, either, which is a good sign.[SN2]

Despite the fact that no one's in the nearby vicinity[KA1], I tread carefully, footsteps soundless from a lifetime of sneaking around. I pause by the doors, back pressed against the wall, listening again for anyone's thoughts. The receptionist is absent, but that's hardly a surprise. She's always disappearing to take care of odd jobs. There's a doctor off one of the hallways, but he seems to be heading in the opposite direction.

Okay. All clear. I slip inside and make for the hall that'll lead to my floor.

Renee's Notes:
I’m not in love with this opening. I would definitely keep reading, but after a really strong query (especially after some tweaks) these opening paragraphs weren’t quite as compelling. I would like to see the first 5 chapters, please!

Sarah's Notes:
[SN1] nice detail
[SN2] Well done weaving this into the world instead of stopping the story to tell us she can hear other people's thoughts.
Good strong first page.

Kurestin's Notes:
[KA1]Try not to repeat information I've just read.
So nothing has grabbed me in this opening. It's fine, there's not really a specific thing I would say is bad, but it's just kind of boring and the descriptions and voice so far are a little generic. I'd keep reading, but I'd be skimming a bit until I found a bit that finally grabbed me. Or I became too bored, whichever came first. However, I would like to see more of this. After you revise the query letter, please send it and the first 50 pages of the manuscript to me.

Renee Nyen: PAGES!
Sarah Negovetich: PASS
Kurestin Armada: PAGES!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #19 Winner

Thank you to all our entrants! I really enjoyed reading each story. One had a unique narrator, one was super sweet, and one had a creepy twist. But there can only be one winner and that is...Barbara!! Congrats!

Winning Entry:

I walked beneath a sickle moon, placid waves lapping at my feet. The beach in autumn. It was silly to come. Autumn was the season of death and decay, ghouls and ghosts, not beach parties. But it was too far to walk home, and my ride was making out back at the bonfire. Everyone was. I couldn’t sit and watch.

A figure struggling from the water caught my eye. My heart quickened, and I glanced back at the bonfire. Would they hear me if I called out?

I turned and gasped. The figure stood before me. A girl. My age. She wore a thin nightgown, and seaweed dangled from her hair. But she wasn’t wet.

“Help me!” she cried. “We must save her!” She pointed at the island across the bay and offered her hand. "Hurry!"

“My friends. I should tell them—”

“Take my hand. Do not let go.”

She stared at me, eyes pleading, and I took her hand.
She led me into the ocean, neither cold nor warm, nor even wet, and we walked across the sea floor as if strolling on land.

“Why are there no fish?” I asked.

“They abide in the living sea. This is the sea of the dead.”

As if to prove it, bloated bodies began to appear. They swam past, their eyes pleading, too. I looked away, but even behind closed lids, I saw them stare. And then we rose from the sea and stepped onto a rocky shore.

The girl was dry as bone. I was dripping wet.

“There.” She pointed to a huddle of large boulders.

Another girl lay wedged between them, legs twisted, face bruised. I worked her out, the incoming tide helping in my task. I laid her in the sand, brushed back her hair, and gasped.

“It’s you.”

“Yes. I am free now. Thank you.” She began to fade away.

“Wait! Bring me back!”

“I cannot. I am no longer undead. I am spirit now.”

“But how—”

“Watch for the eddy,” she said, and vanished.

I stared across the bay at the flickering bonfire. It was too far. They would never hear me. I had to swim.

I removed my shoes and socks and dove into the water. Cold bit into my skin, took my breath and my strength, but I forced myself on.

The current suddenly changed, and the ocean pulled like a vacuum, sucking me back toward the island. Below me, the dead reached and groped. I thrashed and kicked, but my arms tired, my legs went weak. I sunk under the waves, struggled up again, and then I remembered nothing until I found myself struggling from the water.

Lyra raced toward me. “Dani, where’ve you been? We’ve be calling you for hours. Why would you go swimming alone at night and not tell anyone?” She looked at me strangely, brushed back my hair. “But, you’re not even wet.”

“Help me,” I said. “We have to save her. Take my hand and don’t let go.”


Once again, thank you to our participants! Everyone did a great job!!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #19

Now that fall is officially here (pumpkin spice everything!), you know what that means...September's #OAFlash Fiction word prompt will be all about: Autumn!

Rules for the contest can be found here
The winner will be announced Sunday night. Have fun!


Also, as some of you may noticed, I'm new here--and would love to introduce myself. My name is Leandra Wallace, and I'm really excited to be a part of the OA team. I've been writing for eight years now, and can firmly say that writing is my passion, and what I was definitely meant to do.

Which doesn't make it any easier, unfortunately (wouldn't that be nice?). Some days the words flow and all is well. Other days, drudging up good words is as hard as extracting a tooth from a grumpy alligator (hmm...picture book idea?).  

I write kidlit (PB, MG & YA) and my three short stories "The Mad Scientist's Daughter", "Prina and the Pea", and "Leaves, Trees, and Other Scary Things" are featured in Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets, Circuits and Slippers, and the 2017 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide

I am married, have one son, and along with a small black dog and three fish, we all live happily together in a clay-colored house. Besides reading and writing, my next passion is party planning. I enjoy diet vanilla cokes, desserts, family trips, ampersands, old houses, and curling up to read a book without housework hanging over my head. 

Books I would eagerly press into your hands are: The Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud (seriously, completely amazing, I've reread these books a zillion times), The Three Times Lucky series by Sheila Turnage (middle grade, set in the South, fabulous voice and characters), The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (or anything that she writes), and Marion Chesney's Regency Romances (hello, London; lords and ladies!).

I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone! Oh, and I like to use parenthesis. ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Heroic Authors: Defenders of the Weak, Champions of Meaning and Substance

Lindsey Leavitt, Rick Riordan, Anne Riley, 
Suzanne Collins.

There are many others in their ranks:

Authors who brought to light something important and quintessentially human that otherwise might have remained unknown and obscure. 

They could have told any stories, but they chose to tell stories that taught, enlightened, and inspired.

On the surface, Lindsey Leavitt's series about a girl who discovers she can act as a substitute for fanfare-weary princesses seems to be nothing more than a fluffy, pink book. One might be forgiven for assuming it held little of substance. But then again, we've been told never to judge a book by its cover, and for good reason. Through the clever, if silly, fantasy about princesses who just need a break, and the magical substitutes who replace them for such undesirable events as state dinners and arranged marriages, Lindsey Leavitt sneakily introduces young readers to diverse cultures they might never otherwise have discovered. In America, we hear "princess" and we think Princess Di and the Duchess of Cambridge. We don't think of a chief's daughter in an uncontacted tribe deep in the jungle. Or the royalty of small, all-but-forgotten provinces and countries throughout the world. Through each substitution story, we're given a glimpse into a way of life that includes unique culture, family life, and relationships. If you know of a teenager who could benefit from expanded horizons and increased empathy, give him or her this pink book.

On Goodreads
There are few populations more marginalized in schools and society than those labeled troubled teens and slow learners. Rick Riordan had tremendous sympathy for such kids, particularly because his own son suffered from dyslexia. What if, he imagined, what if dyslexia was something to be proud of? What if it only meant your brain was hardwired to read ancient Greek? And that because you were actually a demigod, half god and half human? This dynamic series took the marginalized and gave them a hero in Percy Jackson, a twelve-year-old troubled pre-teen with dyslexia. He is not only innately special, but he finds through his adventures that he is ultimately capable of making a very significant contribution to the world, even saving it from another war of the gods.

On Goodreads

Anne Riley's story about mystery, magic, and boarding school blends the mystic so smoothly with the mundane and miserable, you almost believe it's true. But in the midst of the magic, she takes page space to dwell on the real impact of bullying. The realism makes you want to cry for Natalie Watson who has already been through so much personal tragedy and who just needs a win. In fact, I cried a few times in the reading. In the interest of growing personal empathy, read this book. 

On Goodreads

Suzanne Collins did something that was nothing short of essential to this generation: she called us all out on our darkest obsessions in entertainment, our attraction to reality TV and ancient Rome-style gore. She showed us the disgusting excesses in which we'd indulged while others not so very far from us struggled for food enough to survive. She forced us to look hard at our relationships to war, fashion, entertainment, and family. She dared us to see through a well-crafted story and to see ourselves making the difficult choice between fighting for what really matters, or succumbing to a lifestyle of substance-less fluff; making the choice between self-sacrifice or betrayal of principle; making the choice between being brave and kind, vs. merely playing it safe. There are so many lessons and layers in this series--about community, government, human nature--you will likely learn something new every time you read it. By my definition, it's a classic.

All of these books/series are classics by my definition: a book that you can read over and over again throughout the years and continue to glean valuable insights from its pages. These authors are heroic because they used their talents at story-crafting to tell important stories, even the stories of the marginalized, the humble, the poor, the poor in spirit, and the forgotten.

I've written about them here in hopes of inspiring more of us to be like them, to write for something deeper than the fun of it--because it is so much fun! But when a writer takes on the challenge of telling an important story about seemingly unimportant, or forgotten, people... it changes the world.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Farewell Post From Donelle

Sometimes a leg of a journey is long and sometimes it's short. It’s not the length of time that matters, but the quality of the experience. I expected my stint on Operation Awesome to be longer than this, but life has a way of throwing things into your path that you hadn’t planned for.  I learned a good deal while part of this team and I’m grateful for the experience. 

I’m not disappearing. You can still find me blogging (mostly sporadically) on my own blog A Little Dversion. You can find me on Twitter and Facebook, and on my illustration website. If I'm not posting or tweeting, I'm somewhere writing and drawing, pursuing publication.

It was great to have this opportunity to connect with you all, and great to be part of a writing blog. Here's a sketch of Mr. Bean to brighten your day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Independent Press Profile: New Growth Press

As I mentioned in an earlier post, last month I was back East visiting my extended family. My uncle asked me how my writing was going (standard answer: It's good!). He then remembered that one of his good friends from high school works in publishing, and offered to set me up with him.

This is how I got the opportunity to interview Mark Teears, owner of New Growth Press. New Growth is a medium-sized Christian press that publishes almost entirely non-fiction titles. It's completely different from all the publishers I've ever researched as a Young Adult fiction writer. So for me, it was fascinating to see how New Growth acquires books and builds its list.

If you visit New Growth's website, you'll notice that it's devoted to selling the books it publishes, as opposed to soliciting work from new authors. I assumed that meant they weren't open to unsolicited submissions, and that most of their work was submitted by literary agents. Mark explained to me that New Growth has contracts with many different Christian ministries, who submit books to be published by New Growth. New Growth started out publishing Christian counseling books, but has branched out as more authors associated with these ministries have come on board.

As there are many different sects of Christianity that teach a variety of doctrines and practices, I asked Mark how they select the ones that they will publish. To Mark, it is very important that someone who reads books published by New Growth will know what to expect when they buy another New Growth book, and so they are careful to publish books that teach similar doctrines. The Chief Editor at New Growth makes sure that all of the books considered for publication teach the same doctrine, and will appeal to the same audience.

Once a quarter, the Chief Editor brings projects under consideration to an acquisitions meeting, where they discuss which titles to publish. So even though a ministry has a contract with New Growth, they don't automatically get all of their books published. New Growth is still a business, and has to choose those books that they think they can sell. Author platform is an important factor in these decisions, which is true for any kind of non-fiction book. New Growth publishes approximately 175 books a year.

Many of those books are "minibooks." As the name suggests, these books are shorter, and focus on one subject. Mark credits his wife with the idea of publishing the minibooks, which are a very successful product for New Growth.

Mark is an entrepreneur at heart; New Growth is not the first business he's owned and operated. When I asked him what contributed to his success with New Growth, he told me that "niche is important." New Growth knows what it does well, and works hard to appeal to that niche. When they do venture outside their niche area, they do so cautiously. For example, New Growth recently published its first fiction title. Before acquiring more, they will wait to see how this one does, to see if their customers are interested in fiction or not.

As a writer, the takeaways I got from my interview with Mark were these: Find your niche, and try different things within it. For me, I've written books in several genres, but the one I'm really hoping will go somewhere is Young Adult speculative. I want that to be my niche, but I can try different things within it beside novels; short fiction contests, anthologies, magazines, etcetera.

I greatly appreciate the time Mark spent talking to me about New Growth and publishing in general. While at first I didn't think I'd get much out of interviewing a publisher that was never going to publish my books, I was wrong! It was fascinating to get a inside look at New Growth Press and still learn things that are applicable to many aspects of publishing.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

#TackleTBR Challenge

Welcome to the Operation Awesome #TackleTBR Challenge!

You have you CHOICE of challenges!

Challenge A

- Comment about the best debut author book you've ever read. Every author had that 'first book' published at some point. Tell us which was your favorite, why, and if you've read other books by the author since then.


Challenge B

- OA and Wishful Endings both love owls. Our Operation Awesome owl mascot, Oliver, wants you to find books with owls! Comment with information about an important owl character in a book. Be sure to include the book title and author.


Challenge C

- OA and Wishful Endings both love owls. Our Operation Awesome owl mascot, Oliver, wants you to find books with owls! Publicly post an image* of a book cover that has an owl on it. You can use Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, your own blog, etc. Be sure to hashtag the image with #OperationAwesomeOwls #TackleTBR for credit. *Do NOT violate copyright laws while doing this.


Choose between:
  • A query critique from two members of the OA team. 
  • A weekend guest post on the OA blog. (*Post must fit our theme of books, writing, publishing, or other such literary interests. Available dates begin in October.) 
  • Owl magnetic bookmarks. 


Comment on this post with the following information:

  • For Challenge A, simply leave your answers.
  • For Challenge B, comment with information about an important owl character in a book, the name of the book, and the name of the author.
  • For Challenge C, comment with a link to your "owl on a book cover" image hashtagged #OperationAwesomeOwls #TackleTBR
  • Either way, include in your comment a (typed out) email to reach you!
  • AND include which of the three prizes you want to win. PICK ONLY ONE.


Contest is one day only-- September 18, 2016.

Sample comment:
Challenge B. 
I choose Errol, an owl from the Harry Potter series. He was a Great Grey Owl that resembled a molting feather duster. His loyalty was to the Weasley family in the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling. Errol provided comic relief and small stumbling blocks for the other characters. 
"That bloody bird's a menace!" —Ron Weasley
Email: OperationAwesome6 AT gmail DOT com
I want to win the Owl magnetic bookmarks, please.


Challenge Choice:
Challenge Answer:
Email: Handle AT provider DOT com

Wishful Endings+

Friday, September 16, 2016

How to Infuse Tension into a Scene Without Vivisecting Your Plot

Hello there, writerly reader, and thanks for stopping by. Today I'm going to be talking about a little something called microtension, which was at one time mysterious and confusing for me, but that I'm pleased to say, upon mastery, is not that difficult to understand or incorporate.

I had heard the term floating around for a while, but one of Donald Maass's books finally explained it to me. I was about to go look up which one, but instead, I'm going to recommend all his stuff. The two I read this past year are Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling and The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great, and I have a couple more sitting waiting for my attention. If you want to be a better writer, gobble up everything he's published. I'm serious.

So what is microtension? It's any tension infused into a scene that keeps the reader wanting to know the outcome but that is not directly related to plot.

First I'll explain what it's not: What's the antagonist going to do next? How is the hero going to get out of this bind? What's the killer's identity? What's the resolution of this chapter cliffhanger? Those are all good things that make your audience read on, but they're not microtension. They're plot. If you removed them, you would lose a key piece of the story you're telling.

But sometimes you need to impart information that could be boring (back story, world-building), and you're not in a great position to enhance the plot while you do it. That's where microtension comes in.

Here are three examples, curated from movies and TV because it's easier to give those examples, and that's what I noticed when I was mastering this concept. Hey, you can learn a lot about storytelling from movies and TV.

(I have tried to leave out any spoilers that aren't absolutely essential to my explanation of microtension in case you haven't seen these.)

Example #1: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Rey and Finn have stolen a junk ship from the planet of Jakku. Something's going wrong with a gas leak below the floorboards, Rey is attempting to fix it with Finn and BB-8's help. If she doesn't fix it quickly, they're going to die. That is the microtension.

During this entire scene, in which we the watchers are worried that the poison gas is going to kill them, she and Finn talk about what they need to do. They talk about the map that BB-8 is carrying and where they could possibly go next. That is the boring but important plot information.

If the poison gas leak was removed from the scene, you would lose no vital plot information; however, if you removed the discussion about BB-8's map, you would. The microtension makes it (more) interesting than if they were sitting in the cockpit with their feet up on the console.

Example #2: The Sixth Sense

Child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe meets Cole Sear in his apartment for the first time. Malcolm wants to talk to Cole about the difficulties he's been having at school and elsewhere. All in good fun, Malcolm says he's a psychic and he can figure out what Cole is thinking. Malcolm makes a bet that if he gets answers correct, Cole will step forward, and when he gets to the chair, he must sit down and talk to Malcolm. That is the microtension.

As Malcolm asks questions, we unravel some interesting information about Cole. He's seeing and hearing things. We find out that what Malcolm is assuming about Cole (that he's a disturbed boy) is not correct; we discover that Cole does actually see dead people. That is the boring but important plot information.

During the scene, we want Cole to move forward and sit in the chair. Well, I did. Maybe if you're that kind of person, you didn't want him to, but the point is the same: you had feelings about Cole moving forward or backward. But if you removed the bet from the scene, it wouldn't make any difference to the outcome. Cole would impart some back story, and Malcolm would get stressed out about it.

Example #3: House, M.D.

I actually don't remember the details of this one all that well because it was just another House episode wherein House is being House. They're trying to figure out what's wrong with a patient, and for whatever reason, Dr. House decides to make Dr. Cameron (a female) come into the men's room while he pees in the urinal. She's obviously uncomfortable with this, but she goes along with it. That is the microtension.

She and the three other doctors talk about a possible diagnosis. That is the boring but important plot information.

I wanted to include this example even though the details have faded from my memory because it illustrates that microtension doesn't have to be something particularly intensive. Make a character uncomfortable and want something--to escape, to tell off the person being a jerk, to quit their job--and you've got microtension.

To Wrap Up

I hope that these examples helped illustrate what microtension is, and I hope you can see the immediate applicability to your writing. They're not a substitute for engaging plot, and I would always encourage you to trim away as much of the non-essentials that you can. But if you're got something that you think, "Ho, hum, this is important but sort of not interesting," you can use microtension to fix it.

In fact, you can use microtension to fix things that are already interesting. Don't have too much going on, but if something is just slightly saggy--hey, slap some poison gas in that room.

One Final Note

Thank you for sticking around to read to the end of this post. Before you go...

I didn't want to take up an entire blog slot with just this information, so hopefully the previous tidbits on microtension are useful to you.

It is with mixed emotions that I'm announcing that I'm leaving Operation Awesome. It's been a whirlwind year, and I'm glad for all the connections I've made and writers I've (hopefully) encouraged. Thank you all for your participation in the Friday flash fiction contests, and I'm sorry I didn't pick better books to engage more people in the monthly book club. ;)

I will be helping behind the scenes during the upcoming Pass or Pages, although I don't want to take credit for it or anything--our awesome team of Operatives that are sticking around will continue to be here and support that. We had a GREAT turnout this time, and we're all so glad this contest is beneficial to you.

I'm not going anywhere writing-wise. A stand-alone book in my Fallen Redemption series is coming out in October, I'm trying to finish up the last book in the series before the end of the year, and I'm looking to start writing a whole new series soon. I've got over a dozen short stories on submission, with several in second-look piles (oh great, did I just jinx myself?). I've decided to whole-heartedly pursue self-publishing, which means marketing replaces querying. I'm slush reading for Flash Fiction Online, and I'm volunteering as a Netgalley approver/other miscellaneous for SFWA.

So, phew.

Being honest here, blogging is really not for me--I tried this and I struggled, so I'm moving on to things that I am good at. HOWEVER, I really love helping newer writers, so I do definitely try to give back to the community in other ways! If you need anything at all, a shoulder to cry on, advice on writing, some eyes on your query, hit me up on Twitter @Saboviec.

Thank you all for this opportunity. Whatever it is you're working on--make 'em cry.


S. L. Saboviec grew up in a small town in Iowa but became an expat for her Canadian husband, whom she met in the Massive Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game Star Wars: Galaxies (before the NGE, of course). She holds a B.S. in Physics, which qualifies her to B.S. about physics and occasionally do some math for the sci-fi stories she concocts. Her dark, thought-provoking science fiction & fantasy contains flawed, relatable characters and themes that challenge the status quo.

Her short fiction has appeared in AE and Grievous Angel. She's a member of SFWA and a slush pile reader at Flash Fiction Online. Her debut novel, Guarding Angel, received an honorable mention in the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. The sequel, Reaping Angel, is out now, and the stand-alone companion novel, The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé, releases Oct. 3.

Grab your FREE copy of the short story "When Your Time Is Up" when you sign up for her newsletter.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What I Have Learned About Failure From Author Beth Revis...

Every writer has her own journey, but of all the author success stories I have heard and read over my years as an aspiring writer, Beth Revis's journey inspired me the most! So I want to share with you what she shared with me, and the thousands of people who have already seen...

...this video:

Beth says: Everyone says, "It'll get easier!" But they are lying to your face.

Failure is really just success in training. 

Beth's first book, Across the Universe was much hyped when it first came out, and for good reason. It had one of those beginnings that is so absolutely, perfectly written you would wait in line just to read the next chapter, and you would read through the night just to find the resolution of the killer problem she introduced so beautifully in chapter one. I read her first chapter online and was immediately hooked. In fact, I can compare it with only a handful of other first chapters that have moved and shocked me to a similar extent. Her first chapter alone guaranteed her a spot on that bestseller list. Of course the rest of the series is killer, as well, so that helps!

But seeing this video after I read her first book really gave me the greatest gift I could have received as a struggling and aspiring writer:

The Gift of Perspective.

Thank you, Beth Revis, for being so real! That amazing first chapter, that beautiful prose and shocking intro was the master stroke of an artist who had been honing her craft for years. It wasn't a first draft. It wasn't a lucky step into the darkness. It was the hand of a practiced surgeon. The perspective she gave me saved me from making the mistake of saying, "Well, she's just so talented, and I could never do that." The knowledge of her nine previous unpublished manuscripts forced me to acknowledge the fact that I simply wasn't trying as hard, that I could be a better version of myself if I did.

One more lesson from Beth:

Always write the story of your heart. 

In the first installment of her book series for writers, called Paper Hearts, Beth explains what her particular objective was as a writer--to be published by a big press--and that she didn't regret writing any of her "practice" novels, except for one.

That was the book she wrote "for the market." The book was good, she explains, because she was up to date on all the trends in the publishing industry and she knew exactly what tropes to keep and which to avoid. But as she came closer to getting it published, she pulled it, and the reason was that there was nothing of her in it. It was empty.

Her advice to aspiring writers is not to make the same mistake by trying to please the market. Write the book of your heart, every time, no matter how painful it can be to let go if it's not "the one."

This advice came to me at a time when I needed to hear it, too.

(Her Paper Hearts series is chock-full of great counsel for writers in all stages of development. The video above came from the first free online writing conference ever, WriteOnCon, and is a great example of the many ways Beth has given back to the writing community. The founders of Operation Awesome were inspired by all the writers who put together WriteOnCon, and since our launch in 2010, our ever-changing team of operatives has been working toward that same worthy ideal.)


Have you ever heard the perfect writing advice for you at exactly the right time? What's the best writing advice you've ever received? 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Pass Or Pages September 2016 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 Speculative Fiction novels. The entry window closes at 6pm Eastern time on Wednesday September 14th. Good luck!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Stranger Than Fiction: Using Personal Experience

Have you ever played the game, Three Truths and a Lie? It's one of my favorite getting-to-know-you games because it requires people to think of three true things about them that are so unique they seem unlikely, and it teaches you something about how they lie. Will the lie be obvious or so detailed, it blends right into the truths? But what's really remarkable about playing this game is the discovery that TRUTH really is STRANGER THAN FICTION.

For instance, my three truths always include these: 

I survived a plane crash when I was two years old.
I went skydiving in Canada, and I jumped twice.
I never saw snow in real life until I was eighteen and went away to college.

My lie would always be somewhat lame. I'd exaggerate the number of kids I have (say 8 instead of 5) or say I've been to Hawaii (sadly, still a lie). It turns out I'm terrible at lying. I guess there are worse things! But each person's lie is true for someone else. One of my favorite friends in my neighborhood does, in fact, have 8 kids. And two of my siblings have lived in Hawaii. Did they fly me out to see them? Of course not. Everyone who lives in Hawaii is broke. But am I bitter?

So when we are writing fiction, basically telling lies we hope are convincing enough to convey ideas and themes, we actually rely on an ample portion of the truth, whether that truth belongs to us personally or not. If I were to write about Hawaii, my family's experiences there would factor into my narrative. If I were to write about a 19-year-old girl about to jump out of a small airplane that resembled the small airplane she crashed in with her family when she was 2 years old, I would draw on my own anxieties from that experience.

For this reason, I find that the best UNIVERSAL advice for good writing is this: live.

Living gives us scope and empathy, the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes that's essential to good fiction. In the absence of time traveling to China in the 1960s, however, you may find it preferable to read someone else's truth. Memoir should have a respected place on every fiction writer's bookshelves. Memoir is great writing because it's true and that truth is stranger than fiction.

The last memoir I read was Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang. If I hadn't been told it is a true story, I would not believe it. The happenings are so alien to my ideas of proper government and community action that it strains credibility. Why would people act that way?

Memoir brings us to the heart of all good fiction: the WHY, the motive of our heroes and supporting characters. Why would his sister betray him after spending all their childhood mothering him? Why would her lover kill himself on the eve of their anniversary? Why would the pull of glory be so strong it could make a young child change her name and give up a rich cultural heritage to act on a foreign stage?

And in every answer there is room for still more questions.

That's what makes the truth so much stranger than fiction. How do you infuse your stories with the clarion ring of strange truth?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Love Triangles--Love Them or Hate Them?

Ahh, the love triangle. Some people love it, some hate it. I'm somewhere in between. I like a well
done triangle, but poorly done, and it's enough to make me put the book down. I just don't buy the "I love them both equally" trope. Maybe you disagree, but I don't think we're capable of being fully in love with two people at the same time.

So when I set out to write my own triangle, I knew I'd have to walk a fine line in order to for me not to hate my own work. I also had to consider the effect this sort of behavior would have on my protagonist. Would it make her seem immature, flighty, or undermine her integrity? This task was much harder than I'd first imagined. It was so easy to go too far one way or too far the other. I wanted the reader to feel the tension with my protagonist, so writing it blandly was not an option.

My second book, Subversion (One Bright Future #2), will launch on September 13, one week from today. The love triangle in this book was the greatest challenge of my writing career thus far. Every nuance had to be considered. Slight wording changes made or broke scenes. My protagonist's every word, every thought, every action had to be considered with care.

I hope what comes through is something that will make readers cheer, not drop the book, never to pick it up again. Time and readers will tell.

What do you think of love triangles? Let me know in the comments.


Melinda Friesen writes novels for teens and short stories. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada where she works as marketing director at Rebelight Publishing Inc.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September 2016 Pass Or Pages Agent Panel

September 2016 Pass Or Pages is all about Young Adult Speculative Fiction!

We have three fantastic agents this round who are ready to help you whip those query letters and first pages into shape. Let's meet them!

Kurestin Armada

Kurestin Armada began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books that recognize and subvert typical tropes of genre fiction.

Sarah Negovetich

Sarah Negovetich is fully aware that no one knows how to pronounce her last name, and she's okay with that. Her favorite writing is YA, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty, it's accurate if not exactly motivational. Sarah's background is in Marketing. She uses her experience to assist Corvisiero authors with platform building and book promotion.

Renee Nyen

Several years in the editorial department at Random House’s Colorado division provided Renee with the opportunity to work with bestselling and debut authors alike. After leaving Random House, she came to KT Literary in early 2013. She loves digging into manuscripts and helping the author shape the best story possible. Though this is great for her profession, it tends to frustrate people watching movies with her. With a penchant for depressing hipster music and an abiding love for a good adventure story, Renee is always looking for book recommendations. Even if that means creeping on people reading in public. Which she does frequently. She makes her home in Arizona with her husband, and their two children.

Details for September 2016 Pass or Pages:

Entry starts: Monday, September 12, 2016, at 6 a.m. Eastern
Ends: Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 6 p.m. Eastern
Category/Genre: Young Adult Speculative, which includes all flavors of science-fiction, fantasy, and magical realism.
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 September 26th, 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 feel free to tweet @OpAwesome6. Also, feel free to chat about the contest with fellow participants on the hashtag #PassOrPages.

Friday, September 2, 2016

September and Final #OABookClub

Welcome to our #OABookClub for August! This feature hasn't been popular amongst our readers, so we've decided to retire it. However, before we go, this month, we wanted to give everyone our thoughts on:


I enjoyed the book, especially toward the end when Stephen King went into details about being hit by a van and the long road to his recovery. That made the book, for me, even more relatable and real. That's also when I felt the most hope.

The book is by Stephen King, so obviously, conservative readers, there's going to be adult language, a few sexual situations, and even a bit of violence. (You've been given a heads up.)

CV 22 and 23-- when he discusses meeting his wife-- that's great stuff.

In the On Writing- Section 15, there's a view of what a good query looked like in 1999. (Page 245 in the paperback 10th Anniversary edition.) I wonder what today's literary agents would make of it? Would it make it past our own Operation Awesome PASS OR PAGES? (Honestly? Not if I'm the one reading it. That one breaks nearly every query rule I know. What a difference 15 years makes!)

A story about his son, Owen, illustrates the difference between determination and passionate desire. (A determined person will do all the required work with diligence. A person overflowing with passionate desire will go above and beyond joyfully, perhaps even to the detriment of other bits of life.)


I found On Writing to be a fascinating mix of memoir and writing advice. Getting a peek into how a famous author became what he is today was exciting for me, even though I've only read one Stephen King book (too scary!). I love how he gives so much credit to his family and his wife for supporting him.

I appreciated that he gives writers permissions to just write for a while and see what sticks, plot-wise. I think the way he put it is coming up with a situation and just exploring what characters in that situation would do. Which is all well and good when you can write a 600-page book and no one will blink an eye, right? But even for a new writer who is very aware of that 100K word guideline, it can be a great way to flesh out possible plots. It just means doing a lot of cutting later, and that's okay! I'm actually going to try out this method with my current WIP idea that's floating around in my head waiting for a plot.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for writers. It's really cool to see that even Stephen King came from humble writing beginnings, and for me, was a real confidence-booster. And we all need that from time to time, right?


This was the first writing craft book I ever read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is starting out. Heck, I recommend it to any who's never read it because it's accessible and inspiring and interesting.

One thing that struck me as off, though, was the advice to try writing four hours (FOUR?) a day only after shutting yourself away from the world. Well, that's nice, Stephen, but some of us have family and jobs and commutes. So I would offer in its place this advice: Figure out what works for you and then do that.

But overall, it's great. Don't stop there, though. I recommend everything Donald Maass has ever written. And if you want some more recs, have a gander at my Goodreads writing craft shelf!


If you read On Writing or have other craft book recs, let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Meet Heather Young in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

1- Have you ever been in a Minnesota winter?

I haven’t. My family spent a month every summer at White Earth Lake, in the Detroit Lakes region of Minnesota, and my descriptions of the Minnesota summer in The Lost Girls draw on those memories. For the winter scenes, I relied on my cousin, who is raising his three children on a lake near Bemidji, MN, to tell me about his (very cold!) experiences.

2- Soda, pop, coke, or other -- what word do you use for that drink? Which would Justine and Lucy use?

I use soda, like the native Marylander I am, but when we went to White Earth I called it pop, which was what all my Midwestern relatives called it, and the word Lucy would surely use. Poor Justine, in her desperation to belong in every place she lived as a child, would use whatever word the locals used wherever she happened to be.

3- What kind of law did you practice, and has it helped you to write your book?

I practiced antitrust law. That doesn’t sound like it would have much to do writing a novel, but I do think my law career did help me write this book. What you’re essentially doing as a lawyer is telling your client’s story, trying to make them relatable, understandable, and, if necessary, forgivable. It’s much the same in fiction writing, especially when your characters are as flawed as mine are!

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

Lucy is a world-class rock skipper, but Matthew is even better.

5- Is there any diversity we can look forward to in your book?

Yes. The hunting lodge at the lake is owned by a half-Chippewa family: a white man, a Chippewa woman, and their two biracial sons. This family has an uneasy relationship with the prosperous white families that summer there in 1935, and the boys, Matthew and Abe, figure very prominently in the story of what happened to Emily. They also play big roles in Justine’s mother’s story and in Justine’s story in 1999.

6- Do you feel that your setting is a character onto itself? Why or why not?

Absolutely, and that was my intent. The lake and the lake house are so steeped in this family’s history that they become sentient, sorrowful observers of the tragedies that unfold there, and I used a lot of anthropomorphic descriptions to try to make them feel that way to readers. (The house, for example, is “slump-shouldered,” and “seemed to lean forward, as though the effort of holding itself up had made it weary.”) Many of my favorite writers, like Marilynne Robinson and Annie Proulx, make their settings into characters. It’s something I think has the power to deeply enrich a story, so it was important to me to bring this Minnesota locale to life.

7- Have you enjoyed being a part of the Debutante Ball?

I’ve loved it! Before joining the Ball, I knew no one who had actually published a book (except for my writing teachers). It’s a confusing, stressful, exciting, and wonderful journey, with wild highs and crashing lows, and going through it with these four women gave me an emotional support system that helped me navigate it with (most of) my sanity intact. Plus they’re delightful people whom I’m now thrilled to count as friends!

8- Does your family have a strong bond, and did that influence the book?

My family has a very strong bond. I had a near-idyllic, middle-class upbringing in the D.C. suburbs with two loving parents, a sister, a brother, and none of the tensions that poison the Evans family. However, I lost my brother to cancer when he was only 30. That experience did influence The Lost Girls, especially the story of Lucy and how she and her family cope with their grief when Emily disappears.

9- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

I love compelling characters, so if I read a blurb and think a book has people inside it that I’d like to get to know, it’s coming home with me no matter what the genre!

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

After spending six years writing this book, I was going to see it published one way or another, but I also knew I’d rather go the traditional route if I could. I’ve met many people who are self-published and love the autonomy and bigger slice of the pie that comes with it, but I’m not comfortable with promotion and marketing, and my social media skills are an embarrassment to my children (I still don’t get the difference between Instagram and Snapchat). So I’m glad my agent was able to find a home for The Lost Girls at William Morrow.

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

Why yes, here’s a blurb:

A haunting debut novel that examines the price of loyalty, the burden of regret, the meaning of salvation, and the sacrifices we make for those we love, told in the voices of two unforgettable women linked by a decades-old family mystery at a beautiful, decaying lake house.

In the summer of 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys her mother, who spends the rest of her life at the lake house, hoping in vain that her favorite daughter will walk out of the woods. Emily’s two older sisters stay, too, each keeping her own private, decades-long vigil for the lost child.

Sixty years later Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before she dies, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person to whom it might matter: her grandniece, Justine.

For Justine, the lake house offers a chance to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the stable home she never had. But it’s not the sanctuary she hoped for. The long Minnesota winter has begun. The house is cold and dilapidated, the frozen lake is silent and forbidding, and her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more than he’s telling about the summer of 1935.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives with designs on her inheritance, and the man she left behind launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house steeped in the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.

And here’s a bio:

Heather Young grew up in Maryland, but she's also strongly rooted in the Midwest: her parents grew up in small Iowa towns, met at the University of Iowa, and brought their children to Minnesota every summer. It's this emotional connection that Heather drew upon to create the characters, events, and settings in THE LOST GIRLS.

Heather received an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars in 2011. She lives just outside San Francisco with her two teenaged children and her husband. When she's not writing, she loves biking, hiking, skiing, and reading books she wishes she'd written.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Writing Buddy 101--Guest Post by Mae Respicio

There was a very brief period in my life when I decided to try running as a sport. As a non-runner it was hard for me to find the find the discipline to stick with it, so I enlisted a friend as a Jogging Buddy. Our goal was to be partners-in-support, attempting to get up at the crack of dawn each week to jog together.

We gave it a good show but in the end, while we had pictured ourselves doing a little more of this:

More often than not we’d end up at a coffee shop doing this:   

Alas, I’m not a runner. But I did learn one invaluable tool that I now use steadily in my writing life:

A Buddy.

I’ve had the same Writing Buddy for many years now, my friend Natali, a talented writer whom I first met when we were PEN Emerging Voices Fellows together.

We’re not critique partners (which is a little bit different of a thing, though still necessary to the writing life)—we rarely exchange pages. Our buddy-ship is purely for one thing:

To hold each other accountable to our individual writing goals.

Now I’m sure there are lots of variations on the Writing Buddy, but the way my buddy and I work is that we have a weekly Writing Date to write together. Although it’s probably not what you think—we live on opposite ends of our state so we don’t actually sit in the same room physically writing with each other.

Our dates go something like this:

*She calls me on the phone (same day and time each week).

*We talk briefly about our individual writing goal for that date. It could be anything from crafting a new scene to revising old pages to brainstorming, to even more pragmatic and boring stuff like entering handwritten revisions into the computer.

*After we state our goals we say good luck and hang up; I set a timer.

*When the timer goes off and date’s officially over, I call her back.

*We ask: “How’d it go?”

This is the part that I find the most helpful—re-connecting after our date to find out if we achieved the goal/s we had set. A creative check-in.

Sometimes I’m successful and it feels really good to share (“I wrote a whole new scene!”)

Other times, the date doesn’t go as planned (“I didn’t do anything but stare at a blank screen the Whole. Entire. Time.”) This one actually happens more than I’d like, but my awesome buddy always replies: “It’s okay, at least you showed up.”

Whatever we individually accomplished, our date always ends with genuine and positive encouragement. The next week, we do it all over again.

Finding a balance with writing, as you know, can be so hard… we all have our obligations. While I’m trying to revise my upcoming MG novel I’m also balancing parenting plus a full-time job, so my writing routine’s not always clockwork. Still, having a buddy to check-in with regularly gets me closer to my goals, even if it’s just baby steps. And we rarely cancel on each other—I know that she’s counting on me to check-in with and vice-versa, which makes the “holding yourself accountable” part something that begins to solidly happen.

Having a Writing Buddy has helped me:

*Learn how to set specific writing goals

*Feel like I’m not the only one attempting this solitary endeavor

*Feel no real pressure to write, just to “show up” (which is still a tremendously important part of the process in creating a writing habit!)

So if you’re in need of some encouragement and a way to stick to (and build on) your goals, I highly recommend finding yourself a buddy. Once you get going you might feel something like this:

What are the tools you use to hold yourself accountable to your writing goals? Please share in the comments!


Mae Respicio is author of the upcoming MG novel, A HOUSE LIKE THIS (Spring 2018, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House); her musings on parenthood have appeared in a variety of publications including The Bigger the Better the Tighter the Sweater: 21 Funny Women on The Bigger the Better, the Tighter the Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image, and Other Hazards of Being Female (Seal Press). She’s not a good runner, but she does love a good donut. Follow her road to publication on Twitter!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Rejection Recovery Playlist

I love putting together playlists for projects, but also for inspiration and encouragement. I've shared a few on my personal blog, but I thought it was time I shared some here. This is my Get Back Up playlist for use after rejections, bad reviews, harsh critiques, and anything else you need encouragement for. This is a varied mix of mellow sounds and dance music, including David Bowie, Imagine Dragons, and PSY. There are a couple geeky fanvids in there too (such as Farscape and Doctor Who). I hope you like it!

What are your favorite feel good songs?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #19

For this round of our #OAFlash fiction contest, please use the sentence somewhere, anywhere, in your entry. Rules can be found here.

Flash Fiction Prompt For Friday, August 26, 2016

When posting, remember to include your name and your Twitter handle.

Have fun and come back Sunday night to find out the winner!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cover Reveal: FAITHFUL, by Michelle Hauck

Today Michelle Hauck and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover for FAITHFUL, book two in the Birth of Saints series which releases November 15, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to win a SIGNED copy of book 1 GRUDGING!

On to the reveal! 

Title: FAITHFUL (Birth of Saints #2)

Author: Michelle Hauck
Pub. Date: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Formats: eBook
ISBN: 9780062447173
Find it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Goodreads

Religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck's Birth of Saints series!

A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.

Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?

On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.

What they find instead is an old woman.

But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.

Exclusive Excerpt!

Not for the first time, Claire reconsidered her decision to stay when Ramiro had asked her. She’d lingered out of curiosity—and truthfully because it felt good to be needed—but they didn’t need her now with the Northern army defeated. She could return to the swamp and away from so many people. Despite her hopes of friends and community, she felt awkward here. Reason said she’d get used to their ways, but being around so many folk made her want to hide. Everything pressed down. The walls of the tent shrunk, pinning her in, and smothering her. It became hard to breathe.
She reached for a fresh strip of cloth, only to have her hand shake. She snatched the material and began to roll it, trying to shut out everything else, including her own doubts.
Before she could find a semblance of peace, though, someone shouted. Ladies screamed. Claire looked over her shoulder at the noise. A brown-bearded man in a poncho and a floppy hat ran in her direction. “My family is dead, because of the evacuations. Because of you.”
Claire gasped. He seemed to be talking to Beatriz, then his gaze found Claire.
“Witch!” His outstretched hand suddenly held a long butcher knife. “Witch! Stay away from us! Murderer! Abomination! Die!”
Fronilde dropped to the ground, but Claire couldn’t move. Surprise robbed her brain of a Song to stop him. Even the words of the Hornet Tune, which she knew as well as her name, deserted her. The man closed as everyone scrambled out of his way. Then Beatriz sprang from her chair to stand over Claire, holding up her hand. The tall, black-lace mantilla atop her head waved like a flag. “Stop.”
Something about the authority in the First Wife’s voice—or maybe her simple resistance instead of cringing or scrambling away—brought the man up short, making him pause for a moment. Just the moment the bodyguard needed to crush the lunatic to the floor and overpower him, wrestling free the knife. More guards came running from outside.
Breath rushed back in Claire’s lungs. Beatriz sniffed and touched a spot on her chest over her heart and then her forehead and stomach areas. “Imbecile. He didn’t know who he was dealing with.”

About Michelle: 

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.

Her epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. She's repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Giveaway Details:
2 winners will receive a signed  of GRUDGING, US Only.

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