Friday, July 20, 2018

Volunteers Wanted

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Synopsis Critique #25: YA Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of A WITCH AWAKENING, a YA Fantasy novel, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


[1]Aviana Greenwood spends her days at the family bakery creating sweet breads and savory pastries while using her magic to quicken the process. It’s a pleasant life, but she yearns to do more with her magic and wants to do it without keeping her powers a secret. 

In the Kingdom of Falder, a woman with magic is a witch, and witches have no place in society. Aviana grew up hiding her magic, but when she turns 16 she’s given another option. 

Her great uncle Nero offers to train her [2], and Aviana jumps at the chance, even though it hurts to leave the bakery and her family behind. [3]On the journey, Nero surprises her with a new idea. She could enroll at the University—all she has to do is enroll as a boy. 

If she get’s caught, she’ll become an outcast, forced to leave the life she knows behind. [4]But if she doesn’t, she’ll get to spend the next years learning from the best professors in the realm. She’ll get to follow in her late father’s footsteps. It’s what she’s always wanted, a dream she’d thought was impossible. Aviana agrees to his plan. 

Avi (as she goes by now) begins training for admissions and befriends Nero’s apprentice, Gavin. He’s planning to start at the University this year too, and he’ll be there to help her when Nero cannot. Their friendship is easy—maybe because he knows her secret, or maybe that’s just Gavin. 

They pass admissions. Classes are difficult, and Avi (who’s had little training) is behind from the start. But she works hard, gets help from her friends, and gains confidence when she realizes she’s skilled at potion making. [5]

She befriends other students, and is guilt–ridden over keeping her secret from them. Avi isn’t hiding her magic, but now she’s hiding another part of herself. [6]It’s especially hard lying to Celia, a girl from the local finishing school who has feelings for Avi. Avi feels guilty for potentially leading Celia on, for lying to her, and for hurting her by not reciprocating feelings. 

Adding to her worries, Avi meets Jax, an arrogant student who seems determined to ruin her time at the University. At first Avi isn’t sure why, but she soon discovers he’s jealous of her friendship with Celia. His family is close to Celia’s, and he hopes for an arranged marriage but thinks Avi is in the way. 

Gavin’s always there to cheer up Avi when Jax is being an ass[7], but under Gavin’s happy demeanor hides a sad secret. His sister has magic and is locked up at home because of it. Gavin was sent to Nero’s before he could help, but he has a plan to save her. His father wants an heir, a male heir, so Gavin offers his life in exchange for his sister’s. He’ll return home, run the family estates, marry whomever his father picks, and live a life he never wanted. 

When Gavin confides his plan to Avi, she gives another solution: she could reveal her secret. If people knew witches weren’t dangerous, Gavin’s sister could be freed. The idea distresses him. He’s seen the vicious reactions people have to a girl with magic. [8]

So Avi drops the conversation, but the idea doesn’t go away. Society believes men were given magic because they’re superior; they alone have the cool logic and control needed to properly cast spells. Would women be treated as equals if society knew they could safely wield magic too? 

Celia worries over the future planned for her, lamenting the fact that she’s meant to marry and run a household instead of pursuing her own dreams. Like Avi, she wants to study and learn—to know more about the world around her. Avi brings her to the University library, a chance to read books she can’t access elsewhere. Jax finds them there, and later that week the University bans girls from visiting. If society knew witches weren’t dangerous, would they think of women as more than future wives and mothers? [9]

As the year continues, Avi can’t rid herself of the idea that she should be doing more. She gets to be at the University while other witches live in hiding, suppressing their powers. Women are treated as lesser because it’s thought they can’t properly wield magic. And what will Avi do when she finishes her studies? She doesn’t wish to dress as a man forever. She decides she’ll reveal her secret and waits for an opportune moment. 

On the last day of term, Gavin’s father calls him home. It’s time for Gavin to fulfill his father’s wishes. If Avi wants to help him, she has to act now. She goes to the headmaster and reveals her secret. The headmaster supports her, but not all professors do, and some call for her to be locked up or sent away. 

Instead she’s expelled; her dream of studying at the University is snatched away. But there’s still hope of a happy ending. A council is formed to determine if women can safely use magic. Nero is appointed to lead the council and asks Avi to help. They’ll recruit other witches and show that Avi is not an exception. 

But the night after the council is formed, Avi’s endangered. Nero’s house is defaced with a message calling Avi to leave town, and Avi learns of Jax’s plan to stop her. He’s recruited people to take her magic, something Avi didn’t even know was possible. She’s scared but determined to continue her work for the council. She’s a witch and she’s no longer hiding. [10]


[1]You don’t need to specify her exact age in a synopsis, but I’d like to get a sense of whether she’s a teen (younger or older) or adult. In the next paragraph, it’s mentioned she’s given an option when she turns sixteen, but does that mean she’s newly sixteen at the beginning of the book? It’s worth mentioning, just to prevent confusion.

[2]I assume you mean train her to use her magic, but it’s worth specifying.

[3]Why does she have to leave to get the training? Does Nero live elsewhere?

[4]Leaving the life she knows is a negative, but what else does becoming an outcase entail?

[5]This makes sense, given her skill at baking. If these are related, I’d point out this detail.

[6]I would remind the reader here that Avi is pretending to be a boy.

[7]The tone of “an ass” doesn’t quite match the rest of the synopsis

[8]Is there more to this plan? Seems to me that people are so entrenched in the belief that witches are dangerous that Avi revealing herself wouldn’t be enough to change their minds.

[9]This sentence doesn’t quite seem to lead from the one before it.

[10]This ending feels really abrupt. Is this the actual ending of the book? If not, add a few more details explaining what happens at the end.


This is a really strong synopsis for what sounds like a great book. My notes are mostly nit-picks. Great job!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Meet Ronel Janse van Vuuren in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Once.: Tales, Myths and Legends of Faerie by Ronel Janse van Vuuren

I'm excited to introduce all of you to Ronel, a talented writer and blogger I met during the A to Z challenge. Check out this interview. - J

1- Your book has debuted in English. What other languages is it in?

Afrikaans. It originally won a publishing competition in November 2017 and I’ve since published it in English – it took a while to learn everything I needed to know about being an indie publisher.

2-What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Dependability. Perseverance. Open-mindedness. Compassion. Environmentalism.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

What if…? I love asking that question. It made sense to start writing it all down, truly seeing where a story could lead and perhaps entertain others, too.
Meet Ronel Janse van Vuuren in this Debut Author Spotlight

4- Would you share a picture with us of your book in an interesting setting?

Of course. I’ve been playing around with pictures of books I’ve read for Instagram and came up with this one for both language editions of mine incorporating the Dark Fantasy elements of the book.

5- How do you research myths from all over the world?

I have a couple of folklore books that serve as a basis – my favourites being Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology, and Magic by Clade Lecouteux; The Forest in Folklore and Mythology by Alexander Porteous; Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane; Encyclopedia of Giants and Humanoids in Myth, Legend and Folklore by Theresa Bane; The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper. I also consult The Poetic Edda; the sacred texts site that archives all ancient folklore and mythology texts; and the folklore and mythology site hosted by the University of Pittsburgh that lists, categorizes and hosts all folk texts imaginable.

You’d be amazed at what you can find when you start researching a specific subject. Google can be your friend – just verify your sources.

6- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

In the next six months I want to finish the first book in my middle-grade Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog series and get it published end of November 2018 (in English and Afrikaans), polish the young adult novel (in Afrikaans) for the Sanlam Youth Literature Prize competition and send it in before deadline, enter the Insecure Writer’s Support Group short story competition (details on that will be shared in September on their blog), and write the long fantasy short story requested by Reimaginings Books for an anthology they’re planning.

Long term? Enter more anthology competitions (that’s a good way to get your work in front of new readers), publish the entire Saphira series, publish my work in as many formats as possible (ebook, paperback, audiobook, etc.), (finally!) finish and publish my YA trilogy I’ve been rewriting for ages, and then work on the other projects I’ve been tinkering with. I know, my six-month plan is much more detailed and obsessed over (you should see the post-its on my calendar). This is what May looked like with finalising this book and doing the launch.

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

Looking at Goodreads, I have several. (Which is awesome!) I even had a reader tell me in person how much they loved the book – and how much it made her cry. Turns out the themes of change and loss throughout the book, even though it’s all “make-believe”, has a powerful effect on readers.

8- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?

I have so many favourites! Right now, “The Darkest Part of the Forest” by Holly Black is my favourite. I love how she used folklore and the reversal of roles (a girl is “the knight in shining armour” and she has to save her prince), the book has great diverse characters, it looks at the darkest part of our natures (which Dark Fantasy is all about, of course), and it’s a fast-paced story that keeps you guessing.

Click for my Goodreads review.

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

It is my wish that each story helps the reader on their own journey, making them feel each emotion with each character, and ultimately leave them with hope. As for a particular scene? There are a few that capture different emotions… but I think the scene where a character punches someone out cold for her pet might be the best one.

10- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Reading a lot of books on the subject (and doing the exercises) and writing – a lot. It’s only by implementing the lessons learned in books that you get better.

Click for my Goodreads shelf of books that I've found useful!

That's awesome! I have a shelf like that too. Click for J's shelf of books on writing.

11- What's your favorite part of NaNoWriMo?

Letting go of fear (of failure, of wasting time, of whatever is bothering me at the moment) and just writing the story. It’s already plotted – just write! A bad page can always be rewritten.

12- What is one thing tourist are most often surprised to learn about South Africa?

That lions don’t actually wander the street, except after a rugby game featuring the Lions Rugby Team. Jokes aside, there are many wonderful and beautiful places to visit that tourists hardly ever see because they aren’t as widely advertised as the “safe” and expensive places. If you go exploring – keeping your wits about you and listening to your instincts – you can immerse yourself in our cultural diversity.

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

Carina, one of my many “damsels/princesses” in this book, loves to eat fried worms for breakfast.

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

Some of my Fae characters cannot wield magic – which is almost unheard of in a society where even the smallest Pixie has magic. This causes the end of a relationship, a complete migration of this character’s family and friends who are like him to another realm, resulting in catastrophe for others. Another character is so viciously cursed that she has to live in isolation – and the guy who falls in love with the “normal” side of her has to learn to deal with her cursed side. There’s also a weird cultural/religious aspect to a specific family of Fae in one of the stories who has to marry a mortal to keep everyone safe.

I’m sure there are a few things that I’ve used in the book that I’m not even aware of, but readers will notice.

For the most part, I don’t ask my characters if they’re green, blue or a fantastic shade of purple. I’ll add it if it’s relevant to the plot, but otherwise I think readers should be able to fill in their own details of what the characters look like. Besides, if I describe every character in detail all the guys will look like Ian Somerhalder/Ryan Reynolds/Jesse Williams/Chris Hemsworth depending on my mood. How boring! And if my characters don’t tell me who they’re attracted to/in love with, I’m not going to guess – that’s just rude. They’ll tell me when they’re ready for a next story.

15- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Beira. She’s vicious and caring. I can’t wait to write more stories featuring her.

16- Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?

Yes. Mostly it looks at relationships – of all kinds – and our preconceptions of what they should be. It shows that you should do what is right for you, not necessarily society, and the cost if you don’t.

17- What do you enjoy most about the #AtoZchallenge for bloggers?

The rush of having to blog every day, visit and comment on various blogs, meeting new people and catching up with old friends.

18- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

By not offering my books for free, readers won’t fill up their e-readers with yet another book they won’t read “because it’s not good enough to be sold, so not good enough to read” which in turn will benefit them by having to spend expensive-coffee-money on a book they’ll actually read (value perceived is value achieved) and that will help other authors by creating sales of their books. I’ve heard a lot of other authors talk about this, but not doing. This has the potential of teaching a lesson: you have to give to get. (Maybe it has to do with my country’s current political climate, but I strongly believe that you cannot just take without compensation: someone had worked hard for that thing you want, so treat them fairly.)

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

The cover in combination with the blurb. I’ve been burned by a great combo a few times with the actual story not fitting with either, but that’s still the number one way for me to find a new book to read. Just the other day I visited a bookstore without the intent to buy, just looking at covers, when one pulled me in so completely I had to buy it. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but I have high hopes.
Goodreads Link   

20- How will you measure your publishing performance?

Probably by my fans. I’ve won awards for my writing before, but hearing from fans how much they love my stories is so much more satisfying than a trophy gathering dust.

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

After trying the traditional route for longer than I care to think about, hearing about so many good things happening to indie author friends and then winning the publishing competition with this collection, I had an A-ha! moment and knew that this was the way I should publish. I like to be in control of everything, so why not?

22- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

Doing interviews about my latest release. It turns out that readers love to know more about the person behind the book.

😊 You just hit the heart of why I'm committed to the Debut Author Spotlight here at OA! 💘

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

I’d really like to know what their views are on character description (question 14 about diversity in books): do they prefer filling in the details or do they want to know exactly what I mean when I say that Carina has “unruly curly hair”?

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

Meet Ronel Janse van Vuuren in this Debut Author Spotlight #myth #books Ronel the Mythmaker


Damsels in distress, curses, echoes of faery tales and tragic love affairs swirl together in sixteen stories found in a dragon’s lair by a curious half-fae. Unexpected changes to reality causes more than one damsel to turn into a strong, independent woman who takes charge of her own life.
A collection of short stories about Faerie and the fae that live in the human realm. A few of the stories had won competitions and all of them had enchanted readers.

Learn their secrets and enter the realm of the fae…
ISBN EPUB: 978-0-6399476-2-4
ISBN Paperback: 978-0-6399476-3-1
Publication date: 23 May 2018
Available on most online retailers.
Also available in Afrikaans as “Eens…”.
Universal Book Links for Afrikaans and English versions of this book:

Meet Ronel Janse van Vuuren in this Debut Author Spotlight #myth #books Ronel the Mythmaker


Mortals cannot perceive the veil unless they are invited to – or extremely gifted. For centuries, Man and Fae have been kept apart, for nothing good ever comes from them mixing. The collection of The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog is proof of this.

Still, there are magical creatures that side neither with Man nor Fae.

Dragons are such creatures. They hold the knowledge of both worlds. Some even collect it in the written word, keeping it safe in their lairs.

An inquisitive half-fae once broke into the lair of a dragon known to hoard books. The knowledge she found was too much to keep to herself…

Here are a few tales, myths and legends from Faerie. Some may sound remarkably similar to legends held by mortals, while others are… well… as otherworldly as the fae themselves.

Meet Ronel Janse van Vuuren in this Debut Author Spotlight #myth #books Ronel the Mythmaker

Author Bio:

Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans. Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase on Amazon.

Meet Ronel Janse van Vuuren in this Debut Author Spotlight #myth #books Ronel the Mythmaker

Connect with Ronel on:

Ronel the Mythmaker:

Once.: Tales, Myths and Legends of Faerie by Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Agent News

I'm taking a break from working on Pass Or Pages stuff to give an update: My agent, Jill Corcoran, has merged her agency with Transatlantic Agency. I get to go with her, so I'm part of Transatlantic Agency, now, too! I'm excited for this new phase of my writing journey.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Resurfacing From Creativity Coma

I didn't realize my creative brain was asleep until it woke up.

It wasn't until about a week and a half ago that I had my first idea for an essay...a blog inspired to work on my YA contemporary novel...wanted to put words on a blank page and soak in the worlds they created, the images they painted.

And suddenly, I was on fire. Within about 24 hours, I'd compiled a list of four or five blog posts and essays I wanted to write. It was liberating, empowering, and it was intoxicating.

It's not actually the first time I've experienced something like that. Where for days — nay, weeks — on end, my thoughts were asleep. And I barely even realized it.

I told myself it wasn't happening; that I had ideas, just not the time to work on them; and that as soon as I was no longer stressed about my housing situation, my work situation, my everything-else situation, I would settle back into writing.

But isn't that how it always goes? We don't stop being creative because we want to, or because we've lost the creativity inside of us; we stop being creative because of life circumstances.

But that's actually not the purpose of this post. It doesn't really matter what causes a creativity slump; what matters is what we do after they're over. I won't say "to get over them," because honestly, sometimes you just have to wait it out as best you can, in my opinion. You can't force yourself into productivity, nor can you beat yourself up for not being productive if it's just. not. coming.

The key thing with a slump, a creativity coma, is how you recover from it.

I feel like I'm just now waking up from a long, deep sleep...which is hilarious, because on May 29 I was on a Slump-Busting panel at a blogging conference, and I thought I was recovering from a two-week slump.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Sure, I got back into reading at that point...but writing? Nope, that didn't come easy. Like I mentioned, it wasn't until about a week and a half ago that I even wanted to write again. That I even had an idea for anything to write. That I even believed I could write again.

But I have to take it slow. The other night, I almost freaked right on out because of how much I have to get started doing again — writing for this blog; writing for my own blog; writing for paid publications; writing my novel; reading friends' novels; reading ARCs and reviewing; I could go on. So much more to do!

And in that moment, thinking of fitting it all in on top of full-time work, sleeping, commuting, and trying to have a social life felt...impossible.

So I slowed myself down. I'm gonna take things one at a time. Make lists. Stick to them. Forgive myself if I don't hit everything on the list. Celebrate my accomplishments. Don't sign up for too much (aka don't overcommit). And more, and more, and more.

This blog post of the first steps, actually. A small commitment that I made far enough in advance that I knew I could make it. And. Here. I. Am!

Hey, I'll check back in a few weeks from now and let y'all know how it's going! What do you do when you're in your own creativity coma?

This photo is unrelated. But yay, empty subway train!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Synopsis Critique #24: YA Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of LIFE BEGINS WITH MURDER, a YA Fantasy novel, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


Seventeen-year-old ALLII is Princess Albalia of Sallonia [1], a land with two distinctive features – extreme climatic conditions and vast deposits of Sallikan, the world’s most precious metal. [2]Ignored by her father, Allii is befriended by her beloved stepmother, BELLIZZA. Bellizza helps Allii avoid a distasteful marriage. Allii stands by Bellizza when the king and the court turn against her due to her inability to give birth to the much wanted heir to the throne. [3]Then Bellizza is poisoned and all evidence points to Allii. She is incarcerated and denied access to her father and to NANA, the beloved nurse who mothered her. She escapes and flees Sallonia, with the help of a daemon-dog. She is determined to avenge Bellizza and prove her own innocence to her father by finding the real killer. Since she has no access to the murder scene or witnesses, she uses unorthodox means to gain the information she needs.  [4]

From a woman who lives in a bubble outside time, Allii learns the history that is not in the approved history books. Sallonia once belonged to a race called Muffics who lived close to nature. It was invaded by warlike Sallonians who believed it was their god’s gift to them. Muffics were expelled to the margins of the land; friendly interactions between the two groups outlawed. Allii’s father, a Sallonian prince, and her mother, a Muffic woman loved each other. They eloped and lived together though laws prevented their marriage. Therefore Allii is a bastard and a Halfling, an ‘impure-bred’ despised by both sides. When circumstances forced her father to become king, he abandoned her mother who died soon afterwards. [5]

From a cousin who made a forbidden union with a Muffic woman Allii learns of the succession-crisis in Sallonia. Chief Minister SHERRIZ and Chief Priest PENA want the king to make a new marriage. The king’s cousin BERNALIN wants to change the laws so that Allii can succeed her father. Another cousin, ROCKRIN and his eldest son BROVNALIN angle for the throne. Halflings plot rebellion. [6]

From the secret letters Bellizza wrote to her sister Allii discovers that her stepmother had been resisting [7]attempts to divorce her when she was killed. 

While Allii tries to make sense of the information she has gathered she hears that her father has been killed and Nana locked up. Rockrin is now king. [8]He plans a war of annihilation against Muffics to unify all Sallonians behind him; and to grab the Muffic lands which are believed to contain the last untapped Sallikan ores.

By putting the clues together Allii concludes that Bellizza was killed by Nana. She manages to reach Nana’s prison and asks her why she killed Bellizza. Nana replies that she wanted the king to remarry and father a non-Halfling heir. She had no idea that her co-conspirators (Sherriz, Pena and Brovnalin) planned to scapegoat Allii. Horrified, she revealed the truth to the king who decided to expose the killers and exonerate Allii. Sherriz and Pena then aligned with Rockrin and murdered the king. [9]

Rockrin surprises Allii and Nana. He confirms Nana’s story. When he tries to kill Allii he is killed by NELLIN, Bellizza’s chief lady-in-waiting. [10]

Pena and Brovnalin arrest Bernalin and stage a public show-trial. Allii reveals herself and tells the court and the crowd the truth about who murdered her father and stepmother. She is backed by Nana and Nellin. The crowd turns against Pena and Brovnalin. Sallonian army, consisting mostly of forcible-conscripts, falls into disarray. With Halfling rebels on the march, Sallonian elites agree to make Allii queen. 

The quest to uncover Bellizza’s murder [11]has also been a quest of self-discovery for Allii. Sallonia is home but she doesn’t feel at home there. Her father betrayed her mother and stepmother because he prioritized the crown. She won’t go the same route. When Nellin kills Nana, in revenge for Bellizza’s death, and submits herself to Allii’s justice, Allii walks away sick at heart. 

Allii refuses the crown. At her insistence, the conclave comes to a tentative agreement to replace the kingdom with a republic. 

Having done what she could to set Sallonia on a less unjust path, Allii leaves. She has realized that she has a talent for at uncovering what is hidden. She will roam the world, investigating mysteries and helping those who are unjustly persecuted. Her birth will not determine her fate; she will. [12]


[1]This is a little confusing. I would just say “Seventeen-year-old ALLII is the princess of Sallonia…”

[2]These details are interesting, but don’t seem to be integral to the plot. If you’re trying to cut this down to one page, you can omit these details.

[3]Isn’t Allii the heir to the throne?

[4]What are these unorthodox means? Be specific!

[5]Wouldn’t Allii already know some of this? She knows Bellizza isn’t her real mother, so she must have questioned who her mother was. Was she lied to? Was she led to understand her real mother was Sallonian?

[6]These are all interesting details that add a lot to the main plot, but you need to omit all or most of these names. It muddles the reading. You can rephrase this as “ The Chief Minister and Chief Priest want the king to make a new marriage. The king’s cousin wants to change the laws so that Allii can succeed her father. Another cousin and his eldest son angle for the throne. Halflings plot rebellion.” That way, it’s a lot clearer who’s doing what without getting embroiled in name soup.

[7]I would add “the king’s” here to clarify who’s divorcing who.

[8]Again, I would just say “Allii’s cousin” here.

[9]I got a little confused by the end of this paragraph. Go back through and reword, making sure to focus on who’s doing what, and what the consequences are for the main plot.

[10]You might want to keep Rockrin’s name, since he recurs in the synopsis, but you definitely don’t need to name Nellin.


[12]This is a nice ending and good wrap-up for the plot.


You’ve got some Name Soup going on here. Limit the proper names to 4-5, tops, to make sure the reader doesn’t get confused. Here, I’d use Allii, Bellizza, Nana, and maybe Rockrin. Everyone else can be described by their relationship to Allii.

It sounds like a good plot with a lot of action. With that in mind, trying to condense it into a short synopsis was bound to be tricky. I’d go back through and make sure each major plot event is descibed fully (but briefly), in separate sentences or even paragraphs when necessary. Remember, a synopsis is a map of the plot, so you need to make sure the reader can follow the plot from Point A to B to Z.

Overall, nice job, and best of luck with this book!

Monday, July 9, 2018

July 2018 Pass Or Pages Entry Form

We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for Young Adult contemporary novels. Any entry not falling under that umbrella will be deleted. The entry window closes at 6pm Eastern time on Wednesday July 11th.

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

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Synopsis Critique #23: YA Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of EARTH RECLAIMED, a YA Fantasy novel, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


Nearly killed by nuclear war, the sentient spirit of planet earth [1], know to many as MOTHER EARTH, floods the planet, culling the human population. Scattered across the livable land in independent territories, the humans have one last chance to prove their worth to the planet [2]. Most technology has been replaced with magic, but a handful of people cling to science, surviving with solar technology and genetic modification. 

17-year-old SEREN MCINTYRE is heir of ASSANA MCINTYRE, the ruler of a sovereign territory called Valley-Port and an ambassador between Mother Earth and humanity. Their connection to the planet allows them to manipulate the elements. [3][4]However, that connection works two ways. Every time a mage [5]like Seren uses magic, they risk being controlled by an elemental spirit or Mother Earth Herself. [6]

Growing differences between territories create the potential for a war, something that could lead Mother Earth to rid Herself of the remaining humans. [7]Therefore, dozens of small territories, including Valley-Port, decide to band together as one nation at the inaugural Newly Unified North Eastern State’s (NUNES) convention. 

The convention is being hosted 60 miles north at Merry Basin [8]by TREE-STRONG, a mage whose power rivals Assana’s. Since local elemental spirits won’t allow Assana to leave Valley-Port, Seren embarks to represent Valley-[9]accompanied by peacekeeper twins, DAVID and REGGIE. After a day of travels, they arrive in Little Port where Seren meets up with their boyfriend, ERIK. [10]He warns them about Altzis, a group of bigoted strangers loitering in Little Port on their way to NUNES. [11]

A storm blows up when Seren leaves Little Port, but the ocean spirit is one of the few elementals Seren trusts, so they draw power from her to get through the storm. They make it to Port’s Mouth just before nightfall but are run aground by a sola-powered [12]barge piloted by scientist who fear mages. Seren pulls their boat out of the water to repair the damage, but can’t find a part they need. Seren makes a bargain with a local smith: retrieve a machine trapped in the GREAT SALT MARSH [13]and he’ll make the missing part. 

When Seren returns to Port’s Mouth with the machine, they’re attacked by Altzis. [14]David and Reggie try to fight them off, but are outnumbered. A desperate Seren overcomes their fear of the elementals to draw power from an unknown river spirit, PISCATAQUA [15], who takes over Seren’s body. Piscataqua uses Seren to scare the fighting humans with a tsunami, making The Altzis drop their weapons and flee. 

After a brief stop in a hostile town, Seren and the twins camp on a riverbank. Local elementals snatch Seren’s spirit from their body and put it in a bird circling an Altzi ship. They discover Erik is held captive on board while the Altzis interrogate him about the elementals defending Valley-Port. 

The elementals just want Seren to sink the ship and kill everyone on it. Seren manages to hold the Altzis and raging elementals off long enough for David and Reggie to sneak on board and rescue Erik. 

The group makes it to Merry Basin without further incidents, but their troubles are far from over. The delegates, a mix of mages like Seren, Altzis, scientist, and village leaders who lack magic, cannot agree on anything. And Tree-Strong turns out to be so bad at moderating that Seren fears he is trying to cause a war. 

With the help of impish elementals Seren snoops around Tree-Strong’s home, but every time they get close to his office, his security systems nearly kill Seren. 

The elementals and Mother Earth grow weary of the human squabbling. When disagreements lead to violence, She uses Seren to give the humans an ultimatum: come to a peaceful agreement by dawn or die. [16]A storm blows up. The more people fight, the stronger it gets. It becomes lethal when a man tries to blow up the pier where most NUNES delegates have docked their boats. 

The man appears to be an Altzi, but Seren discovers Tree-Strong used magic to force him to deliver the explosive. 

Seren finally bypasses Tree-Strong’s security and finding [17]evidence that he engineered Altzi movement in hopes that by scarring people and saving them, they would accept him as their ruler, making NUNES an empire instead of a republic. 

Seren imprisons him and moderates the final discussion. The delegates vote to approve the constitution. 

As the sun rises, waters recede, and a rainbow stretches across the land -- a sign that The Mother approves of the outcome. Seren returns home no longer afraid of their power and more confident in their ability to one day fill Assana’s shoes as an Ambassador between Earth and humanity.


[1]: I’m not positive, but I think this should be capitalized as Planet Earth
[2]: Better clarity if you say they’re trying to prove themselves to Mother Earth
[3]: Does ‘they’ refer to Seren and Assana? Is Assana a man or woman? Reading through the synopsis, I think Seren is agender, but since the ‘they/them’ pronouns might be unfamiliar to some readers, it’s worth pointing this out upfront
[4]: Also, what do you mean by their connection to the planet? Can you add a little more detail here?
[5]: I would use ‘mages’ here, so it aligns with the plural ‘they’ later in the sentence
[6]: What does it mean for people to be controlled? I assume that’s a negative thing, but why?
[7]: I’m wondering why Mother Earth bothered to keep any humans around when she flooded the planet. If she’s just waiting for them to start a war so she can render them extinct, why not just get rid of all of them when she had a chance?
[8]: You’ve got a lot of character and place names in these first few paragraphs. Unless the place names are significant, I’d omit them and refer to places more generally.
[9]: Should be Valley-Port, right?
[10]: Whose boyfriend is he? The twins’? Seren’s? I’m confused who ‘they’ refers to here.
[11]: There are way too many character names now. You should stick to 4-5 named characters in a synopsis. Skipping ahead, I think you need Seren, Assana, Mother Earth, Erik, and Tree-Strong. The twins can be referred to as ‘the twins,’ and anyone else can be referred to generically, too.
[12]: This should be ‘solar-powered’?
[13]: This doesn’t need to be named
[14]: Here, I’m not sure if the ‘they’ refers to Seren or Seren, the twins, and Erik.
[15]: Don’t need this proper name. Just say ‘river spirit.’
[16]: Nice stakes.
[17]: ‘Finds’


You’ve got a clear plot through-line here, and I have a good idea of where the story goes. Most of my comments are for adding clarity. Doing that through deletion of excess character names will get you a long way. Best of luck with this!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Meet Kat Seaholm in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

In Search of Justice: Book One of the Seeker Files

1- Any fun outdoor activities planned for this summer?

I am currently in my second year of karate, with an end goal of achieving black belt. Every month this summer, I will be doing “Karate in the Park” as well as several workshops including board breaking. I am currently a blue belt in American Kenpo and will be testing for my Advanced Blue in July.

2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Loyalty, unique, laughter, strength, courage

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I have been writing for as long as I can literally remember. Books and stories have always been a part of my life. My favorite day of the week was when we got to go to the library and my family would always max out our library cards, lol. It’s just such a natural part of me that I can’t imagine my life without writing.
Meet the cat of author Kat Seaholm in this Debut Author Spotlight

4- Would you share a picture with us of your book with one (or more) of your cats?

My cats are very active, so getting them to sit still long enough to take a picture was hard, but I managed. Meet Samson, the newest member of our family. In April, we had to say goodbye to our 17 year old Siamese tom, Sassy. It was hard, but we had to do what was best for him. However, we’ve always had a Siamese cat and the lack was quite evident. So after waiting a few months, we found Samson and it was love at first sight. Although we have both male and female cats, our toms tend to grow large, so we thought that he needed a big name to grow into.

5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

Short term writing goal is to finish the next book in my series finished “In Search of High Society”. The Seeker Files is planned to be a six-book series, so this will be the halfway point. The first book “In Search of Justice” is about Aletta and Lirim’s partnership forming. Book two, “In Search of Healing” is Aletta’s story. And this book will be Lirim’s story. I’m really looking forward to writing it and getting to know him better. Long term goal is definitely to finish The Seeker Files as well as write a second series called The Starfire Dragon Chronicles. Yes, the series that Aletta reads in the Seeker Files is a real series kicking around in the back of my mind at the moment. After that? We’ll see where the wind takes me 😊

6- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?

Oh, this is a hard one. I have so many favorites, including books by Brian Jacques, Pride and Prejudice, anything by Eric Carle, Mary Calhoun, or Marguerite Henry. However, if I had to absolutely pick one, it would have to be “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. He created such a vivid in-depth world with such alive characters. Someday, if I work very, very hard, I might someday come close to his talent. I love all of his writing. His characters are so dynamic and alive. Now, I am a bit of a snob, as I rarely like the movie versions of books, but LOTR did an amazing job of capturing it, unlike the Hobbit. My only disappointment is that Tom Bombadil never made it into the movies, but I’m sure that’s because of run time. Also, Sam is the true hero of the series.

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

I haven’t been very widely read, although that is not the reason that I published my book. Due to an incident during my teens where I almost fell victim to a vanity publisher, I didn’t show my writing to anyone for years. Last year, I grew tired of hiding my writing from the world and dared myself to write a mystery in the month of October and publish it in time for Halloween. I was so burnt out by the end, but I did it. However, my mom is definitely my biggest fan and she enjoys seeing how the characters develop throughout the storyline.

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

I really hope that the readers will connect with the characters as they make their journeys. I want my characters to not just evoke one emotion, but to make readers feel like that are real people that they could run into on the street. In ISOJ, the scene where Lirim and Aletta have lunch and try to work things out is the scene I hope that people relate to. It shows how two completely different individuals can figure out how to work together despite their differences and how people can recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. In ISOH, it’s where Aletta has to tell Lirim about her friend Lena. We all have issues that we tend to push down and run from. When we have to face them, it can be scary and even devastating. However, it can also be healing at the same time, which is why Aletta’s story is called “In Search of Healing”

9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Now this is funny to admit as an author, but the fact is I absolutely HATE grammar. Grammar and I do not get along well at all, this goes all the way back to my middle school days. However, if I want my books to read well, it’s a necessary hurdle for my writing growth. So my many thanks go to my editor, Jennifer Benson, who helped me edit my two novels and had patience with my endless questions on the subject. My writing has definitely improved thanks to her help and I hope to continue improving as I go forward.

10- Where is the most interesting or unusual place to which you've traveled?

I was privileged to be able to visit Nepal last year with my company. I got to spend three days in a remote village doing community service and then spend another few days playing tourist. One of the cool things was that it is the year 2074 there, so I can say that I’ve been to the future. Also, they were having elections for the first time ever. The royal family was massacred in 2001 and then a corrupt government took over. It has taken time, but they finally got to do elections last year and it was an incredible thing to see. Nepal has a high illiteracy rate, over 80%, so they had pictures of all the candidates. The candidates could only campaign for one week and both men and women were allowed to vote. It was amazing.

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

That honor would definitely have to belong to Cass, a pixie who works for HSI. She’s maybe five foot, but all energy and you never know what color her hair will be, it’s been every from fuchsia pink to mermaid aqua with teal highlights. I never know what color she’ll appear with next 😊

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

I don’t know if my main characters would be considered diverse or not, but Lirim is Supernatural while Aletta is Human. Although this is something that I’ll be expounding on in my third novel, the Fae were forced into hiding for centuries and only reemerged a few hundred years ago. In this world, they would almost definitely be considered a minority.

13- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Definitely Cara, the secretary for Captain Jones. She is a very sweet person but cross her and she will bury you in paperwork. She is both the office mother and the enforcer of Captain Jones’s orders.

14- Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?

I don’t try to spotlight issues in society, what I want is for my books to be entertainment, a welcome respite from day to day stress. But if there is one thing that I would like people to take from my book, is that people are people and everyone has their own journey to make. You never know what other people are going through, sometimes a passing smile from you can mean the world to someone else. So be kind, it’ll make the world a brighter place.

15- What other books are similar to yours?

I think that it bears some resemblance to The Chronicles of Elantra, although it’s hard to define fantasy at times. It’s all so different 😊

16- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

Literacy programs. So many people hate reading because of required reading. They just haven’t been able to find the books that will make them fall in love. My middle brother has dyslexia (which is truly amazing, their brains work in 3D) and did not read until he was eight years old. My mother did not push him and let him work at his own pace, working from the book “The Gift of Dyslexia”. One day she came home and found him reading the encyclopedia about airplanes. Also, many people are Auditory and reading isn’t fun for them, but what about audiobooks? It’s about finding what draws people in and showing them the joy of reading, not just how to read, but why to fall in love with reading.

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

This is a somewhat difficult question for me. I actually don’t buy a lot of books. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t read, because I read voraciously. However, libraries have been a major part of my life since I was born. I was even a Children’s librarian for a year and a half. So I usually check out books from my library first. Then, if a book really speaks to me, I will go ahead and buy it. I tend to have a wide taste, so I never know what genre or book will speak to me.

18- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I would really like to see reviews. I want to know what people love about my books, what they hated. Where they think I could’ve left something out or what they want to know more about. Although I would like to make enough to live on from writing, the money has never been an important part of writing for me. It’s about sharing my characters stories with the world in the hopes that someone will enjoy it as much as I do.

19- What was your favorite part of the #AtoZchallenge 2018?

The #AtoZchallenge was chaotic. I really did not know what I was getting myself into. But what I really loved to see was what all of the bloggers were doing. It’s such a simple subject, but it got interpreted so many different ways, each one unique and beautiful. I look forward to participating again.

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

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. However, after a run-in with a vanity company when I was 15 left me scarred about sharing my writing for the longest time, although I never actually stopped writing. Despite people telling me that they enjoyed my writing, school or work related, never my fiction, I would never share my writing. So last year, I started writing fanfiction and didn’t tell any of my friends or family. I thought that it would be a way to test out my writing and no one would ever know if I flopped terribly. Imagine my surprise at the amazing feedback I was getting. Getting tired of hiding my writing away, I challenged myself to write a mystery in October and publish it in time for Halloween. I couldn’t believe it when I sat down to write and a six-book series popped into my head. I took it and ran with it. I decided to self-publish because a) I was on a deadline b)I didn’t have a lot of money upfront to publish with 3) The idea of finding an agent/publisher was super daunting and I might not have had the courage to go through with it. Amazon was amazing and easy to work with, so I don’t regret this choice at all
(In case you’re curious, my fanfiction is on and under Madkat89)

21- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

I’m still working on this. This is not a strong suit of mine but I’m working on getting better. For me, the important part was getting the books written. Now I need to take off my author hat and put on my publicist one 😊

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

What emotions do readers want to experience when they read my book? What draws them into a book and makes them keep reading?

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

In Search of Justice Blurb

It’s all just fun and games until someone dies.
In a world where supernaturals and humans live side-by-side in peace, that peace can be suddenly shattered. That’s when HSI (Human-Supernatural Investigation) comes into play.
Agent Aletta Sheridan has been with the department for only a little over a month when she’s handed a new case. A murderer is on the loose in Isenton and it’s her job to track the killer down.
Fiercely independent, Aletta is forced by her superiors to partner with another agent. With only a handful of clues to follow, will they be able to stop the killer before anyone else dies?

Meet Kat Seaholm in this Debut Author Spotlight

In Search of Healing Blurb

Having survived her first few months at HSI, Agent Aletta is settling into her partnership with Lirim. She is coming to terms with her newfound gift and the threat to her welfare is finally over. Or is it?
Aletta had left everything behind to start over at HSI. But her past is not content to remain where it belongs, in the past. Drawn reluctantly back into her past, she and Lirim race against time at they try to figure out who is behind the attacks on the Canticum Opera Company.
Struggling to fully harness her gift and running from her past, can Aletta and Lirim figure out who is targeting the Canticum Company before time runs out?

Kat Seaholm lives on a small acreage in Colorado along with her family and way too many cats. The cats also happen to be her hardest critics and push her to improve her writing along with adding more mice and cats to her story. Besides writing, Kat’s other hobbies include traveling, karate, and several needlearts.


Twitter: @KatSeaholm

In Search of Justice: Book One of the Seeker Files