Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last Day for Questions!

Be sure to send us your questions for the agent/editor Q&A thread for the New Year's Revisions Conference! Today is the last day to get them in - just email them to us at operationawesome6 (at) gmail (dot) com or leave them in the comments!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cover Reveal: Praefatio

Today is the cover reveal for Georgia McBride's debut novel, Praefatio, coming next year to Month 9 Books. Run over to Mundie Mom's where you can hear more about the book and also see the awesome trailer. Also, visit Goodreads and add Praefatio to your "to read" list as well!

Seventeen-year-old Grace Ann Miller is no ordinary runaway. After having been missing for weeks, Grace is found on the estate of international rock star Gavin Vault, half-dressed and yelling for help. Over the course of twenty-four hours Grace holds an entire police force captive with incredulous tales of angels, demons, and war; intent on saving Gavin from lockup, and her family from worry over her safety. But instead, authorities believe that Grace is ill, and suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, the victim of assault and a severely fractured mind. Undeterred, Grace reveals the secret existence of dark angels on earth, an ancient prophecy and a wretched curse steeped in Biblical myth. Grace’s claims set into motion an ages-old war, resulting in blood, death and the loss of everything that matters. But are these the delusions of an immensely sick girl, or could Grace’s story actually be true? Praefatio is Grace’s account of weeks on the run, falling in love and losing everything but her faith. When it’s sister against brother, light versus darkness, corrupt police officers, eager doctors and accusing journalists, against one girl with nothing but her word as proof: who do you believe?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Welcome to the Virtual Blog Tour for LIBERA ME, Book #2 in the Requiem Series by Christine Fonseca.
Beginning after Lacrimosa and the short story Mea Culpa, Libera Me follows Zane and Aydan as they try to figure out who Nessa really is. Here's the blurb:
What happens when everything you’ve sacrificed for is lost? 
Aydan thought Nesy’s death would be the end of him, until he meets Nessa and his hope is restored. Could she be Nesy reborn? He is certain she must be. That is, until her lack of memories and incessant nightmares begin to erode his faith.

Zane is used to trusting his mind, his wisdom and his angelic senses. But these attributes are no help with Nessa. He has no way to be certain of her identity, no way to know the truth. That is, unless he listens to the one thing he has refused to acknowledge throughout his existence - he feelings for Nesy. 

Blind to both angel and demon, Aydan and Zane must figure out the truth behind Nesy's identity before all is lost, Azza discovers the truth and the Beast is again unleashed. 

The lines between good and evil have never been so blurred.

Libera Me officially releases October 30. And be sure to check out the other books in the series:

About Christine:

School psychologist by day, critically acclaimed YA and nonfiction author by night, Christine Fonseca believes that writing is a great way to explore humanity. Her many titles include TRANSCEND, DIES IRAE, LACRIMOSA, MEA CULPA, and in nonfiction: 101 SUCCESS SECRETS FOR GIFTED KIDS and EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS.
When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, she can be sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at her favorite coffee house or playing around on Facebook and Twitter. Catch her daily thoughts about writing and life on her blog.
For more information about Christine Fonseca or the series, visit her website – or her blog

To celebrate to release and thank her readers, Christine is hosting a little contest honoring each of the main characters. Prizes include a new release YA book, Book swag, and even some of her own titles. She is also giving a Kindle as part of her Fall Release Party. Check out both giveaways below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dionna L. Mann on POV in Description

This week I asked middle-grade writer Dionna L. Mann to write a guest post. Dionna is the author of FREEDOM PEN (Pugalicious Press, also the publisher of DEADWOOD!), a new gem of a children's novel with a pitch-perfect rural Virginia voice.

FREEDOM PEN by Dionna L. Mann,
Pugalicous Press, 2012, on sale now!
Here's the blurb:
Being mean ain’t in nobody’s blood.
Reckon folks will argue that one until there’s no more moonshine on the mountains.  But in Freedom Pen that’s what Sarah the Twerp believes.  And soon she and her brother, Billy, are setting out on a courageous summertime adventure to free two pit bull pups from a violent future.  Will the pup’s heroes succeed in their quest, though they’ve been penned in by a violent past themselves?
So how does she capture that POV in every line? She sent over this guest post and I used it immediately in revising picture book manuscript -- it really helped me think about choice of word and image.

POV: Parasol or Velcro?

By Dionna L. Mann 

The sky is an opened parasol hovering above … or is it Velcro stretching taut across the horizon, better yet, is it mashed potatoes filling a blue expanse…?

Truth be told, if the penned stylist doesn’t know who is looking at the sky, then the whole manuscript-troposphere is a muddled mess!

So…what’s the sky made of? Is it a Parasol Or Velcro? It all depends on whose eyes are gazing upward—the POV—doesn’t it?

Who’s gawking up? 

If the eyes gawking up are of a teenage girl from Harlem, New York, then the stars filling the firmament sure better not look like the shining scales of a freshly caught herring. And if the eyes are of a ten-year-old boy from the hollers of an Appalachian Mountain range, then the bejeweled night canopy sure better not look like an aluminum garbage can stretched from North Street to South Street with headlights bouncing on it.

Talk about whipping up some unsettling wind conditions for anyone attempting to hang glide in the sky of your created world! The poor reader piloting such a confused story will probably feel lightheaded due to POV-oxygen deprivation! (Look out below! She’s coming in hard!) And that’s your manuscript hitting the reject pile.

Be kind to your reader, will you? Let the POV-air blow gently, steadily, consistently.

Eye know what eye am seeing! 

No matter if your narration, the point of view, of your story is in the first person: “I looked at the sky…”, and I’m Jimmy and—Get back writer!—I know how I see the sky! 

Or if it is in the limited third person: “Jimmy looked at the sky….”, and I’m the narrator seeing everything through Jimmy’s eyes, so, don’t question me, I know how Jimmy sees the sky.

Or if it’s in an omniscient voice: “That whippersnapper Jim looked at the sky…”, and I’m a wise, old man from Kentucky, so I know how Jim and everyone else sees the sky. What’s more, I’ll describe it in my own crotchety way!

Author Dionna L. Mann
No matter any of that. The bottom line is that the sky must be seen through the eyes of whom the story speaks. That’s POV, plain and simple.

Right Shade of Blue 

If you really want to get the hue of blue right for the arch above, consider this: How does my character feel when he’s outside staring heavenward? Is he a downhearted charcoal-gray? Then surely he won’t describe the sunset as an ice cream sundae with rainbow sprinkles.

Is he feeling a jubilant baby blue? Then his eyes must not wander aimlessly toward dusky clouds that seem to be oozing black ink. Heavens, no! Do that and your reader will be yelling, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

The mood of each scene and the character’s state of mind at any given time during the narration of the story must influence the POV.

Is Columbus breathing this air, too? 

Think about this, too. When was Jimmy born? If the kid came into the world in the 1800s, he’ll not describe the sky the exact same way as if he was born in the year 2012, or 2504. Research (for historical fiction), imagination (for a futuristic envisioning), and at all times, observing the world as Jimmy would, will bring your POV clearly into focus.

So next time your character gazes into the sky, how will he or she describe it? Like a parasol or Velcro? Spend time getting into the head of your character or narrator, and then you’ll know just what to make of the blue bowl above us!

Suggested reading: Description by Monica Wood, published by Writer’s Digest Books.

Related Links

More about Dionna L. Mann
Buy Freedom Pen
Interview with Dionna L. Mann by Kathy Erskine

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Today, I would like to brag about my awesome literary agent, Jill Corcoran. Not only is she one of the best agents in the business--she is also a gifted editor. Jill recently created an amazing poetry book entitled, Dare to Dream... Change the World. This beautiful book pairs biographical and inspirational poems featuring special people who invented something, stood for something, and changed the lives of others all over the world.

What makes this book extra special is that the poets were chosen not only for their talent, but because they have inspired young people throughout their careers with both actions and words.

 According to the jacket flap, Dare to Dream...Change the World came to Jill durning a long car ride while she listened to NPR cover the uprising of the Egyptian people against their oppressive government. Jill had been to Egypt before and was familiar with the people's struggles. Jill was overcome by the courage of the Egyptian people and amazed by the role of scoial networking to bring their dreams and actions instantly to the rest of the world. To her, the tweets were like poetry, capturing the essence of the people's hopes, fears, strength and determination.

I savored each and every poem included in this spectacular collection. I also loved the feel of the smooth pages and the beautiful illustrations by J. Beth Jepson.

Learn more here:

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Teacup Toast for AMAROK and DEADWOOD, Angie and Kell!

It has been an amazing week for Operation Awesome authors.

Two fabulous books came out, representing two of my favorite genres, two of my favorite authors, and two of my favorite people.

First I got this dramatic, mystical YA gem in the mail:

Amarok by Angela J. Townsend

And then I got this magical, thematic MG debut:

Deadwood by Kell Andrews

Blurb for Amarok:
Emma's life has been hell since she moved from sunny California to a remote Alaskan town. Abandoned by her father and living with the guilt of causing her mother's death, she makes a desperate dash for freedom from her abusive stepfather. But when her car skids off the icy road, her planned escape leads to further captivity in a world beyond her imagining.  
Dragged across the tundra by an evil mountain man and his enormous black wolf, she learns that love can be found in the most unexpected places. Amarok, as she's nicknamed the wolf, is a young man from the gold-rush era enslaved by an ancient shaman. Emma's gentle touch and kind heart win his love and devotion. When a vicious madman--trapped in bear form by the same Shaman--attacks the travelers and injures Amarok, Emma must find the strength to face her fears and free the wolf she's come to love. But that means she must face down the evil shaman, a Siberian mammoth hunter from the ice age, and he has no intention of giving up his power to her.

Blurb for Deadwood:
There’s something evil in Deadwood Park.  
Martin Cruz hates his rotten new town. Then he gets a message from a tree telling him it’s cursed — and so is he. It’s not just any tree. It’s the Spirit Tree, the ancient beech the high school football team carves to commemorate the home opener. And every year they lose. 
But the curse is no game, and it gets worse. Businesses fail. Trees topple like dominos. Sinkholes open up in the streets, swallowing cars and buildings. Even people begin to fade, drained of life.  
Martin teams up with know-it-all soccer star Hannah Vaughan. Together they must heal the tree, or be stuck in Deadwood Park at the mercy of the psycho who cursed it.

Though different in tone, voice, and target audience, these books have one thing in common: both are gripping stories with truly evil bad guys and truly heroic heroes. I'm so proud to be associated with the authors through Operation Awesome.

Seeing these books finished and presented in this beautiful way makes me all kinds of happy. They now sit side by side on my bookshelf where every time anybody points to them I'll be able to say, "I know the author; she's amazing."

Join me in a toast of two very talented women who started writing one day and whose hard work has given the world new characters to love and fear, and new worlds into which to escape.

Photo source: KayEllen


p.s. Also look for other Operation Awesome author titles coming soon: Treasured Lies by Michelle McLean, out very soon; and The Emissary by Kristal Shaff, out next December (2013).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Deadline Junkie

I've always been one of those people who is more productive with a deadline looming over my head. I don't know why this is. And this seems to only apply to the writing side of my life. As a student, I was the type to get my homework done right away. While I occasionally left a paper until just before it was due, I was much more likely to go through the syllabus and do EVERYTHING on it well in advance of the due dates.

But when it comes to writing a book, I like me some deadlines ;)

I've tried setting goals and deadlines for myself, but while those are helpful (more so when I'm working with friends who help keep me going), those self-set deadlines don't really motivate me much because I know, at the end of the day, there are no real, hard and fast consequences if I don't meet those goals.

But give me a good solid deadline, esp one involving a contract with a specific date or an editor waiting for my ms to hit her desk? Oooo boy, watch me go! I turn into an obsessed little hamster, pounding out the wordage until the task is complete (often well before the deadline).

Speaking of deadlines, there is one looming over my head as we speak, so I'm off to write! :D

How about you? Do you work well under pressure? Do you like having a deadline, or do you prefer having things clear and open?

***Don't forget to send us your questions for the agent/editor panel for the New Year's Revisions Conference!!! Only a few days left to get them in!***

Monday, October 22, 2012

Disney's Princess Sofia + Stereotypes = What Do You Think?

So. You may or may not have heard the latest over at Camp Disney--they've unveiled their newest princess. Her name's Princess Sofia, and she's the star of her very own movie, Sofia The First: Once Upon A Princess. According to the movie's producers, Sofia is of Hispanic heritage on her mother's side. 

And she looks like this:

And she's voiced by actress Ariel Winter, who stars in one of my absolute fave TV shows, Modern Family:

As you can see, these ladies are both Caucasian. Princess Sofia, in particular, has blue eyes. Now here's the thing: I'm Puerto Rican. I've lived in Puerto Rico my whole life, and yes, there are white, blue-eyed Puerto Ricans (if this shocks you, then holy smoke bombs, you need to get out more). Seeing white, blue-eyed peeps from other Latin-American countries doesn't surprise me at all, either. That being said, there's been some serious backlash over Princess Sofia's appearance. Her critics believe she doesn't look Hispanic. To add fuel to the fire, the movie won't address her Hispanic heritage as A Thing That Matters, but as A Thing That Is Simply Part Of Who She Is And Won't Be Dwelt On.   

Now I leave the floor open to you: whether it's in Disney movies/books/TV shows, do you prefer the main character's heritage to be on the forefront of their story, or are you okay with it not dwelling on their heritage too much? Can you provide examples to better illustrate your preference and why it works for you? Thanks in advance!

Also, don't forget: you can still submit your questions for our New Year's Revisions Conference Agent Q&A!!! AND instead of just one question per person, you can submit as many you want! Just make sure you get them in before October 31st!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Finally, So Soon

I went to a gorgeous wedding yesterday. The sky was the blue, the air crisp. Yellow and orange leaves drifted like confetti, and the bride and groom were so love.

During the toast, the maid of honor commented how happy she was that her little sister had finally found love.

The bride is 23.

I hadn't been thinking "finally." I was thinking how she was to have lucky she had found love so soon.

The same is often true in writing careers. Sometimes contracts and success seem to come quickly. Sometimes they happen after many years of struggle. Either way, the person who is living it always experiences it as a "finally," and not a "so soon."

The truth is that you never know what creative, personal, or professional struggles another person has overcome to get where they are. They may have written many drafts or manuscripts, or maybe the struggle came before they ever typed a keystroke -- a long path to the process of deciding to write, to synthesizing the thoughts, experiences, and study of many years into a story that seems to be an overnight success.

Whenever love comes, whenever success happens, it's never out of nowhere, nor is it ever too late.

It's always, "Finally, so soon."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Characters Who Watch TV

Source: Sedentary TV Time May Cut Life Short

I think it's universally accepted that a character who sits around and watches TV in his spare time doesn't make a good protagonist... except maybe if he's watching mandatory TV in The Hunger Games. But even then, that's a supporting character. The main character is ON the mandatory TV.

So I'm not suggesting we all make our characters TV junkies.

What I do want to suggest is that real people watch TV - sometimes a lot of it. We watch Oscar ceremonies and MTV awards, Olympics events and sports games, sit coms and soap operas and dramas and space cowboy steampunk and pyschological thrillers... and commercials.

And then we talk about it to anyone else who watches the same stuff we do.

It never occurred to me to make my characters real in this way until I read Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. Her main character, Evie, is a pink-loving, sparkly-taser-toting, Buffy-esque paranormal huntress whose biggest desire is to be normal. And she is obsessed with a teen drama called Easton Heights... so obsessed that she compares things she is experiencing to specific episodes from the fictional show. It works because most of us have seen these teen shows and understand the cliches she's embracing as her ideal of "normal."

Of course, throughout the three-book story she comes to find out that normal is not really a real thing, and if it were, it would be overrated. Her awesome message-made-for-teens aside, giving Evie a favorite TV show was brilliant. Here's why:

  • we all watch TV and can relate (well, most of us)
  • the stories we take in on TV inform and affect our perceptions of our own lives
  • we share TV stories as part of our popular culture; it can even bond two strangers in an elevator
  • our TV tastes are a reflection of our personalities
So if you have a scene where your main character walks into the house to find her little brother watching TV, go the extra mile and tell the reader what he's watching and what your MC thinks about it. It only takes a few extra words and it helps to characterize both people in the scene. Even if you aren't going to mention it in the story, give your MC a favorite TV show. See if it informs any of her dearly-held stereotypes, friendships, or choices.

If your protagonist were living in today's world, what would his or her favorite TV show be? What movie did he just watch in the theater (and with whom). What old show did she rent or watch from Netflix?

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blond vs. Blonde

So last night on twitter, one of the editors at my publisher tweeted about blond and blonde and how editors talk about that sort of thing. This, of course, sent me into a moment of saying "crap" and rushing off to my manuscript. You see, my manuscript is sitting in edits right now, and, knowing my luck, it was probably me who started this "blond" discussion. Well, at least I THOUGHT it might be me, so I went to check it out. I mean, in some of my earlier drafts, I had someone "lunching" with their sword, so it could be me, right?

Did I get it wrong?

Did I have a, I mean blonde...or, um...

Ok, let's call it a brunette moment, considering I do have brown hair.

So I looked up "blond vs. blonde" and found out some interesting stuff. I also discovered that I DID have a wrong blond in my manuscript. Go figure. No matter how many times I learn about grammar, there is always something else to learn, eh?

I wanted to share what I found out with you. :o)

The word "blond" comes from the French, where it has a feminine and a masculine form of the word. So, when you are using the word as a noun, it has two separate forms. When talking about a girl, you use BLONDE. A man would be BLOND.


The blonde walked by in her high heels.
The blond on the men's track team can run really fast.

Now, if you use it as an adjective, use the form BLOND. As an adjective, it never has an "e".

The blond woman has on a red dress.
The man with blond hair has a big nose.


I have also found reference that you can use blonde for a female adjective. There is some difference of opinion on that rule. If you would go with the French , where blond was derived from, the word "hair" is a masculine word. And so, in theory, you can safely use blond (without e) for describing hair. However, I don't think you'd get a lot of grief if you had used a girl's blonde hair either.

Now...your turn. :)

1. An attractive ________ wore a sequined dress.
2. The ________woman is quite short.
2. The playground was filled with _________ children.
3. That man peeing in the grass is a ________.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Writers Are Strong, Not Neurotic

This week there was some talk about Amazon's new ranking for writers, and much of it was a variant of "Aren't writers neurotic enough already?"

It's like a variant of the old saw:

Just because you're neurotic doesn't mean there's nothing to obsess over.

But I'm tired of that stereotype that writers are fragile, emotional, scattered, or obsessed. We are not neurotic. We are strong and brave and resilient. 

You have to brave to write down your thoughts and share them with others. You have to be brave to ask for and accept criticism, and strong to make your writing better. You have to be strong and persistent to actually finish a novel or story, then polish it to the best of your ability.

You sure have to be brave to query a novel.

You have to be resilient to take rejections, and for many us, begin another novel after rejection and start the process again.

When you get an agent after one book or a dozen, you have to be strong to go on submission -- so close, but often still not close enough.

When your first or twentieth book is published, you have to face down industry reviews and reader reviews -- or maybe loud, shrugging, total indifference. You have people think you're not a real writer because you're self-published or with a small press or you write for a genre that doesn't really count to them. You have to go to book signings where you don't sell books and open royalty statements with "unearned royalties" stamped in red.

And if you're a published writer, you're ranked already -- you have to go out and promote your book even when your Amazon ranking shows you're the 821,678th most popular, and your Goodreads page has gifs of celebrities gagging at your work. And anyone can see it. Everyone.

So I don't buy that we're truly neurotic. Does an engineer have to face down one-star reviews? Does a salesperson have to go out and sell a product, with the number "821,678th most popular" stamped on his forehead?

No. But we do. We are not neurotic.

We are brave and strong and resilient in the face of setbacks, both public and private.

This week I was thrilled to get a new agent, Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, and I posted about it on my own blog, if you're interested in the whole story. It took a lot of resilience to get here after many manuscripts and many, many rejections. I have a book coming out with a small press, and I'm putting myself out there, beyond my little cave, and for me, that's brave.

If you are reading this, wherever you are on your writing journey, you are brave and strong and resilient.

What's something you did as a writer that was very hard to do, but you did anyway? 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Description In Fiction Writing

For me, I feel it is essential to get the right amount of description in my manuscripts. Good description incorporates many elements such as setting, feel, character emotion, and more. To much description can hinder the pace.

Below is a fun post by my good friend Angela Ackerman--and its just in time for Holloween. Angela is the author of The Emotion Thesaurus. The Emotion Thesaurus is a valuable resource for writers filled with description tips on emotion, dialougue, characters and setting.
I love writing description in my novels. I enjoy bringing the reader into my world, seeing it as I do as I'm creating it.

Setting Description Entry: Haunted House (inside)


Dust, cobwebs, sheets on furniture, broken tables, chairs, windows, lamps, peeling wallpaper, gaps in the floorboards, holes in the walls, flickering lights (if there's electricity) chandelier with broken strings of crystals, broken glass on the floor, spiders, cockroaches, rust, mildew, ripped curtains, shadows, gloomy staircases, old portraits & paintings, cracked or dirty doors, moving shadows, apparitions, outlines of people, objects moving by themselves (doorknobs turning, doors opening, cups falling out of cupboards, cutlery clattering, chairs rocking or sliding across the floor), mice, rats, ectoplasm, glowing lights, fireplace suddenly starting up on its own, messages appearing and disappearing on the walls or on windows or mirrors in the fog, blood or other substance, dirt, grit, ripped up books, papers and debris lying about, rodent feces


footsteps on the stair, creaking doors, window shutters rattling on the outside, wind scattering/rustling paper through a broken window gap, words whispered in ear, screams, crying, wailing, laughter, glass smashing, the scrap of a chair moving, the scritch of tree branches scraping at the windows, rats squeaking, movement in the walls, a piano/radio/record player starting up all by itself, radio static, creaks, squeaks, thuds, bumps, scrapes, whistles, boots across the floor, locks clicking into place, creaky movement coming from the ceiling or floor above, howls, groans, cackles, cupboard doors flapping open and shut, doors slamming, creaky banisters, rustles, unidentified noises, breathing sounds, murmuring or muttering coming from other rooms, the sound of pacing


Phantom perfume or cologne, burning smells, pipe or cigarette smoke, mildew, rot, dank, rusty or metallic smells, wet wood and stone, rancid breath, yeasty beer smell, food, dust, dry rot, rat/mice feces, urine


Sour & dry mouth from fear, dust floating in the air and coating the tongue, salty tears


A phantom hand on the shoulder, the puff of breath on the earlobe or the back of the neck, the sensation of being grabbed on the arm, pushed, pulled, pinched, poked, slapped, burned, a feeling of light-headedness and nausea, hair rising on arms or the back of the neck, the body's reaction to a drop in temperature (chills, shivering, breath puffing out in clouds, running a finger through dust, pulling back a thick drape, fingers clutching at a banister as you go up or down the stairs, pulling on the light bulb chain in the basement, stairs giving underfoot, rattling a doorknob that has locked itself, pressing a face against the glass, trying to see out, touching objects inside the house out of curiosity: a candelabra dripping with spiderwebs at the dining room table, a man's hat hanging from a coat rack, pulling open drawers and cupboards, pushing doors open with the flat of the hand, clutching at a flashlight or object to use as a weapon, desperately punching in numbers of a cell phone, bumping into furniture or walls in the dark, slipping on throw rugs or mildew, clutching at own face or hair in desperation, hugging arms around shoulders or waist in fear, cringing, jumping, trembling, a hand clutching at the mouth to stop a scream, swallowing to try to slow breathing and heartbeat, hot tears running down cheeks, a sore throat from crying

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

I cringed at each creak on the old warped stairs, but it didn't sway my determination to make it to the bedroom on the second floor. Halfway up, a shadow flickered at the corner of my vision. I froze, and as I stood there, caught a woody scent lingering in the air. Tobacco smoke? A shiver curled through the hairs on the back of my neck then cascaded down my backbone. It was all I could do to not hurl myself back down the stairs toward the front door.

Example 2:

Gail stepped into the nursery, her throat tightening at the thick dust floating in the air. Sunlight slipped through the cracked boards covering the window, illuminating a child's wooden rocking horse sitting out on a tattered rug. The toy's wooden seat was worn smooth, coated in dirt, and cobwebs matted the corded mane and tail.

The air shimmered and a young boy flickered into view. Gail gasped, watching his pale hands grasp at the mane, pulling himself into the seat. Slowly the horse began to rock, much to the jubilation of its ghostly rider.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

The moment I entered the master bedroom I felt it: warm, moist air brushing my ear like a stalker's breath.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

The dining room chair suddenly jolted back and tilted toward me, a gracious invitation by an invisible host.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Permission to Write Crap

I just finished reading Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and dove right into Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix, and Finish with Confidence by Roz Morris.
On goodreads
On goodreads

Both are excellent books! The first one deals with everything that makes a story breakout material, from unique premise to sympathetic characters to high stakes to symbols and setting. I highly recommend it.

The second deals with fixing and finishing a book. So, while the first is all about craft, the second (includes tips about craft but) is really about method. That's an important distinction for me because I've been studying the craft of writing for a long time. Years and years. What was missing from my self-education was the study of METHOD.

Roz Morris understands that you can know all about character arc, plot, and theme, and still have trouble working through an entire novel. She understands that you can write an entire first draft (or six) and still feel like a failure, like your book is somehow unfinished. Her book offers insights into the methods that can help you work and rework your novel until it's one you can be proud of.

I expected tips on organizing the plot and filling impossible holes, which I got. What I didn't expect was this insight about writing first drafts:

Dream your way through it. Your dream self isn't criticizing the dream you're having. You're just exploring it, letting your mind fill in the details as you go along (paraphrased from the book).

Sure, I'd heard people say, "Turn off your internal editor," but that never worked for me. My internal editor is sort of my best friend when I'm writing. It's really hard for me to turn it off. Roz Morris' way of putting it - dream your way through the first draft - reached me where I was.

I still feel compelled to edit as I go along if I see those horrible red squiggly lines. But I'm learning that it's okay to let your rough draft be... well, rough.

Roz Morris gave me permission to write crap. Now I'm passing that permission along to you.

Kind of liberating, isn't it?

p.s. Our January 4th-6th New Year's Revisions Conference will be totally free and totally online. We'd love to see you there and we're lining up a fantastic collection of authors, agents, and editors to give us a million new perspectives on the all-important steps of revision. Our agent Q&A is now open for questions. Email your revision questions to OperationAwesome6 (at) gmail (dot) com before October 31st. (Limit one question per person, please.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Savvy Authors NaNo Boot Camp and Entangled Smack Down!

(The following info was taken from the Savvy site - check out the original post for all the details!)

So what is this boot camp/smack down of which I speak? Sheer awesomeness, that's what! :D Here's the 411:

This program is essentially basic training to help authors succeed during NaNo Boot Camp.

If you've ever wanted to learn how to write Category Romance this is an amazing opportunity. At least two editors from all the Entangled imprints will be on hand teaching you how to incorporate tropes into your manuscripts to deliver a satisfying read in half the word count.

So - What is NaNo Boot Camp - Entangled Smack Down? 

It consists of 3 parts:

  • Recruit Day: On Saturday, October 20th, participants will pitch a one page synopsis to Entangled Publishing editors before Basic Training week begins. Editors will be available to discuss ideas with participants and give tips on how to get the most out of the week long Basic Training workshop. 
  •  Basic Training: Monday, October 22nd through Friday, October 26th, Entangled editors will break into groups for each imprint and mentor recruits as they prepare their novels for NaNo Boot Camp. This includes various craft elements. 
  •  Savvy NaNo Boot Camp: Boot Camp runs Thursday, November 1st through Friday, November 30th, and recruits are expected to write 50,000 words in 30 days, or 1,667 words daily. Recruits are split into teams of 5 and teams compete with words written per day (no editing in Boot Camp!) Entangled recruits will remain with their Basic Training teams throughout the event.
Each Entangled imprint has specific information for what the authors will be doing and what the editors will be offering, so be sure to head to the site (link above) to check out the specific details.

This is seriously an amazingly cool opportunity. If you are at all interested in writing romance, this is a must check out!!! You do need to be a member of Savvy Authors to participate (which I believe is $30 to sign up - btw totally worth it because SA always has a ton of amazing stuff going on).

To check out Savvy Authors and how to become a member, go HERE.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fairy tale Adaptions: Beauty and the Beast

The last few years, I've seen several books written that were inspired from fairy tales. Books such as CinderBeastlyCloaked, and Entwined (which my 14-year-old loved).

Also, my own publisher is releasing a anthology of fairy tale adaptations. Two and Twenty Dark Tales is coming your way soon! For more about THIS title, visit it's blog tour starting next week! Go HERE to find out more.

Now, for the original reason this post was inspired. I don't watch TV much, but I did see today that they are remaking the show Beauty and the Beast. I'm old enough to have enjoyed the series way back in the 80's, and was excited to hear that they are doing it again. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales. There is something, to me, about how it focuses on the beauty within a person, rather than outside appearance. I also enjoyed the recent adaption of Beastly when it came to the big screen. So I looked up the new series, and I found a picture. 

It wasn't this: 

or This:

or This even (which was a different interpretation from the book version):

But I found this:

Soooo... It's a hot looking guy with a scar and contacts. How Beast-like is that? I guess I need to watch the show to get a better opinion of it. But initially, I am disappointed. My "beauty within" love of the beast just got blasted out of the water. The Beastly movie version was close to being too nice-looking for me, but he did have enough scars and strange stuff on him, that I did like it in the end. This new one....not so sure. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

So are you looking forward to Beauty an the Beast on CW? And also, what other fairy tale adaptions do you love?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Announcement Part 2: OUR BIG NEWS!

Good morning. How are you today? Because I'm EXCELLENT.

Why? Well, I can finally spill the deets on our super secret news! *screams until throat is raw* You see, we here at Operation Awesome love helping people. Especially writer people. That's why we host our Mystery Agent contests. We get a huge kick out of offering writing tips, too. 

But we wanted to take things up a notch. We wanted to do more for our beloved writer people. Naturally, we found ourselves wondering how to go about this. There's a lot to be said and done when it comes to helping out writers, after all. One of the things that struck us is how much writing is rewriting. And with NaNoWriMo just around the corner, discussions about revision are crucial. No one wants to send out a less-than-the-best manuscript in the new year, after all.

So. The OA team came up with an idea.

Are you ready? ARE YOU READY? Yes? Good. Here we go.


Ladies and gents, we're launching our first ever, totally free, awesome-filled online conference! Yes, you read that right. An online conference focused primarily on revisions. It is called...

New Year's Revisions Conference!!!
January 4th-6th, 2013 



Okay. Now you know.  In 2013, the OA team is bringing you three days worth of goodies from authors, agents, and editors, all of whom are committed to giving you the revision tools you need. 


One of the conference events will be a Q&A thread with agents! Here's how it'll work: email us your best, most pressing revision questions to OperationAwesome6 (at) gmail (dot) com! Our awesome agents will answer YOUR questions, and we'll feature them during the Q&A thread of the conference. Folks, you have until October 31st to submit your questions, so think reeeeeeally hard about what you want our agents to talk about. Disclaimer: Limit one question per person. You don't have to be a blog follower to submit a question, so go ahead and send! 

That's all the juice I have for now! But no worries--we'll spill even more details as the conference draws nearer! Pinky swear.

And if you could be a dear and spread the word about the New Year's Revisions Conference, I'd love you forever. :)

Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Salina Yoon on the Difference Between Character-Driven and Concept Picture Books

This week Operation Awesome features the amazing author/illustrator Salina Yoon, who celebrated the release of her first character-driven picture book, PENGUIN AND PINECONE, A FRIENDSHIP STORY (Walker and Company) on October 2.

What's so amazing about Salina is that while this book is a milestone for her, she has actually illustrated, written, and designed nearly 200 interactive, novelty, and concept books for young children! I had the pleasure of reading a wonderful draft of one of Salina's upcoming books, and I was surprised to find that she considers herself a beginner at writing character-driven stories. Her devotion to learning craft inspired me in writing my own picture book manuscripts.

Still, I had to make her explain the difference between the books that made her name and wonderful stories like PENGUIN AND PINECONE, which is receiving rave reviews everywhere. Believe me, Salina is busy, so I'm so pleased she shared these answers with us.

You are celebrating the release of your first character-driven picture book, but you've worked on nearly 200 interactive and novelty books. I don't know if all readers know the difference between the two categories. So what is the definition of an interactive or novelty book?

Novelty and interactive books are books with interactive elements designed into the book, usually for our youngest audience (though there are novelty books for older children and adults as well). A novelty book may include lift-flaps, touch-and-feel elements (cloth or textures embedded into the book), sliding elements, tabs to pull, wheels to spin, special peek-a-boo die-cuts, sound buttons, and even pop-ups are in the category of "novelty." Almost any book that is different from your standard book format is considered novelty which opens the door to lots of creativity in this genre. I have done a few concept picture books (COUNT MY BLESSINGS 1 THROUGH 10, CHORES! CHORES! CHORES!, SUPER BABIES ON THE MOVE, all published by Penguin), but these are different from narratives.

How did you first get published? And how did you come to publish so many books . . . all without an agent?

I worked as a designer/art director for three years at Intervisual Books, a book packager/publisher that specializes in interactive and pop-up books. Best publishing education EVER! It is there that I learned about novelty books, and there that I fell in love with them.

My passion for them grew and grew, and the more I designed them, the more I wanted to illustrate them too. I was given the opportunity to illustrate a few books while employed there, as a freelance project. This gave me some credibility in the world of publishing, and later lead to Cindy Loh, editorial director of S&S at the time, to contact me about illustrating a novelty book written by another author. I was actually floored when she contacted me. Numb, and in shock.

This was the year I had left my job to relocate to San Diego to be with my fiancĂ©, now husband, and was freelancing, hoping for book deals with my former company. Intervisual acquired many novelty titles from me, but I hadn't even considered submitting my books to NY houses at the time.  I quickly jumped at the chance. Thankfully, Cindy was happy enough with the project to ask me to illustrate another novelty series. But this time, she asked me if I could write the text as well. I'd never written anything other than first-words books. But I also couldn't let this opportunity slip away, so I quickly told her yes. (See a pattern?) Cindy was kind enough to edit my clunky text and make it publishable. 

After the novelty series, I was ready to submit projects of my own. I asked if I could send her something, and she and Robin Corey (former S&S publisher) said yes. It was a project she immediately loved, but after 12 months, ultimately had to pass due to pricing issues. So I built a new dummy set and sent it to Penguin as an unsolicited submission. (Building dummies are time consuming, so I would only build one set and target one house at a time until I heard from them.) 

I had no agent, no connections at Penguin, just an address from my Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market reference book. It took about six months before an intern called me on the phone to say they love it, and if an editor could call me to discuss a deal. It was an incredible eight-book deal. I remember this moment because I was pregnant with my first son (now 8 1/2 yrs old). I was also publishing lots of novelties with S&S at the time. Two years later, Penguin offered a 22-novelty book, two-year exclusive deal. This is how I came to publish so many books, especially with Penguin, and without an agent. Those two houses kept me busy. Robin Corey moved to Random House later. She acquired several titles while there. My Penguin editors moved to various houses which gave me new connections and new publishing opportunities. Cindy moved to Scholastic (who gave me my Cartwheel contact), then moved to Sterling, and now at Bloomsbury. This is all to say that my publishing contact list grew and grew over time simply because my editors moved. 

But now, I DO have an agent (Jamie Weiss Chilton at Andrea Brown Literary Agency), and I find our partnership to be INVALUABLE on so many levels. 
Salina Yoon has published a novelty book about every major holiday.

What is the creative process for interactive and novelty books? Do publishers come to you, or do you develop the ideas yourself?

Mostly, I create the projects myself and submit them traditionally. I create the entire book (design, illustrations, text and format) and build a book dummy to ship out (or digital book dummy that's emailed). But in a few cases, publishers have contacted me to create something specific for their list with general guidelines. But this does not guarantee an acquisition, however. It's more of a suggestion from the editor that I could choose to follow up on or not.

Creating a novelty book is really a unique process because there are three very distinct and important elements to a novelty, and each must work with the other seamlessly: the format, the concept and the art. The format is the physical design of the book, and the added interactive component.  The concept is the idea of the book, including text. And the illustrations must fit the audience AND the publishing imprint, which is why I work in several art styles.

Some of your books, including the gorgeous KALEIDOSCOPE, are highly engineered and/or involve complicated die-cuts and moving parts. What's the process for developing those? Can you think of any specific compromise or change you end up making?
Salina Yoon's KALEIDOSCOPE, so gorgeous it's sold in the MoMA gift shop
Novelty ideas like KALEIDOSCOPE often start off as little paper cut-outs. I snip away, glue things on, sketch loosely, and try to envision the format. The format is key for novelty. Once I nail the idea, I work on my computer to create the art and design the book. The last thing I do is write the text. But while I build the full-size dummy, it goes through some changes as I find ways to improve it. Changes often occur after acquisition as well, due to pricing, child-safety, or other manufacturing/production issues.

PENGUIN AND PINECONE: A FRIENDSHIP STORY is your first picture book. Why did you branch into picture books? Did the idea come first, or did you decide to write a picture book and brainstorm for ideas?

Picture books seem like a natural progression from novelty and board books, though the process in creating one is entirely different. I was obsessed with the idea of creating a picture book with a penguin character. I just love penguins. So cute! This lead to the first penguin-character picture book manuscript, "Three Little Penguins," a retelling of the Three Little Pigs. Unfortunately, this manuscript was rejected, but we did get a revision request. Passed again. After this experience, I questioned my ability to write a picture book. I took a break and went back to creating novelties. Eight months later, I still thought about Penguin. I decided he needed an entirely new story and a new art style to go with it. I bought a Wacom tablet to experiment with new art styles on Photoshop. (Before then, I'd only illustrated digitally with a mouse.) Penguin was born. And with this, a story emerged.

You've described yourself as a novice in picture books, but with so many published titles, that's surprising to me. How different is it to write a character-driven narrative? How have you worked on this craft? 

In writing a character-driven narrative, I have to really understand Penguin's motivations, his emotional range, his physical range, what inspires him, and his understanding of the world. Once I know this, many plausible story lines reveal itself... though they're not always good stories! 

I never had to delve into a character before for my novelties. My novelties often lack a central character since they were often concept books. It's an entirely different way of working for me, but I'm enjoying the new challenge!
Salina Yoon, photo credit Marlo Yoshimoto
The character of Penguin is so vivid, adorable, and quirky too. Will we be hearing

Thank you, and absolutely you will see more Penguin books in the future in 2013 and possibly beyond! Please look for PENGUIN ON VACATION next spring!

What other stories and books are you working on?

I am working on three picture books at the moment, two that are story-based and the other more concept driven. I still love creating novelties, but I will be dedicating the next few months with completing these... unless I'm hit with a great novelty idea that will derail my plan.
Can you describe your other books that have released in 2012?

KALEIDOSCOPE (Little, Brown) a poetic novelty with a prismatic lens for children and adults, (look for its sequel, PINWHEEL, in the spring) SPACE WALK and DEEP SEA (Sterling), a non-fiction lift-flap series, HUMPTY DUMPTY (S&S), an Easter-holiday board book, IN THE OCEAN (Macmillan), a first words board book with foil accents, JACK AND JILL (S&S), a Halloween board book, DO CROCS KISS? and DO COWS MEOW? (Sterling), a fun animal sounds book with large mouth-shaped lift-flaps, WHERE'S ELLIE? (Random House), a hide and seek board book, and last but not least, PENGUIN & PINECONE (Walker/Bloomsbury), a picture book, caps off 2012!

Thank you for inviting me to the Operation Awesome blog, Kelly! 

Thank you to Salina! Visit her at and look for her books everywhere.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Getting an Agent

Almost every week I receive a letter from an aspiring author asking for advice on how to get an agent. My best advice is to have a finished manuscript. Not a first draft. Not a second draft. Not third or fourth—but a well constructed and edited manuscript.

I’ve had writers send me copies of their query letters asking for suggestions.  After reading them I’ve thought…wow… these are great letters. Why were they rejected? Then I read samples of the manuscripts and I understand why they were rejected. The characters are often underdeveloped, the plot sags, grammatical errors.  

I often wonder—why do some writers get into such a terrible rush? My advice is to savor your story, perfect it, and then submit it.
Here is something to keep in mind....

A few years ago I did temp work at a retail store. The owner of the store was a very impatient, stressed out man. He wanted to build a huge empire overnight. One day he came into work with a new tie. Featured on the tie was a picture of ancient Rome. Apparently his wife bought him the tie as a reminder that…Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I believe the same could be said for writing and publication. Take your time, it will help to ensure a stronger manuscript and a better chance at publication.

Happy writing!


 Come visit my blog :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hey I just met you and this is crazy...

What first impression is your character giving? 

 I wrote a book back in 2008 for Nanowrimo that was pretty awful. I loved it at the time, of course, but it didn't flow. It meeeaaaaaanderrrred like a snake through a really, really big garden. The beginning didn't match the ending (a common problem for pantsers, I hear). But worst of all, the first impression I'd created for my main character fell completely flat.

 If you write romance, or anything with a romantic element, you know how important that first meet cute is. You plan it out: wouldn't it be fun if they met at a doughnut shop or a dog park or a moon colony grand opening?

 Yet many of us make the mistake of introducing our main character to potential readers in a dull way.

 Back to my Nanowrimo 2008 novel: 

 It started with a man-child science fiction writer waking up and going through his day. He got irritated by things a lot, and the reader got the full dose because I did this all in first person POV. Eventually his book publicist/mother figure walked in and started giving him orders. He reacted. She left. He went on to the next boring thing he had to do.

 I don't know why I thought it was so important to show this boring part of his life, but I did. I was convinced it was the best way to characterize him for the reader. That way they could be super excited when something different happened.

 Um, setting up low expectations for a big surprise later is a bad idea in a novel. Apparently, readers with low expectations just. stop. reading. This isn't rocket science, I know. My MC was bored with his life, so why wouldn't readers be bored by his life, too?

 I soon found out this is a common problem for newbie writers. A friend of mine showed me the beginning of his on-a-whim attempt at a novel start. He, too, had come up with a plot involving a troubled dude. He, too, had begun by describing just how troubled the dude was. It, too, bored my socks off. Eventually, it was going to get into corporate theft, blackmail, and scapegoating -- but the first chapter felt like standing in line at the DMV.

Nowadays I understand the importance of tension and EVENT in the beginning of a novel, but I still struggle with creating the perfect first impression of my main character.

In life, people like to think they have you pegged from "Hello." The statement, "Oh, you're one of those people," may be said rarely, but it's secretly thought about a gazillion times per second. This isn't a terribly bad inclination of humankind. It has its roots in our survival instincts, which are pretty important. Babies study their parents' faces. When we meet someone new, we do the same thing but in a (we think) more sophisticated way.

We listen for

  • jargon or slang
  • pop culture references
  • vocabulary level
  • accent
If a person uses a $10 word like 'ephemeral,' we either think he's stuck up or nerdy or just plain impressive. It all depends on the sum of the pieces.

If he uses it in a stuck elevator after you've been sitting on the floor talking about the difference between happiness and joy, it will strike you differently than if he says it while staring wistfully at his spilled vanilla latte.

We aren't just listening, either. We're breathing, which means we can smell the way-too-minty toothpaste she's using or the cologne that takes us back to a golden summer of a first kiss, or the movie popcorn butter on his still-greasy fingers.

Beyond the obvious visuals we all remember to include like hair style, dress, and weight, there's an every-sense meeting going on between our reader and our main character. If you're leaving something out of that first-impression equation, make sure you're doing it on purpose.

It's okay to let your reader think the protagonist at the pharmacy is a self-righteous line-cutter with anger management problems, and then to explain a few pages later that he was actually buying an inhaler for his asthmatic five-year-old, waiting in the car with his panic-prone wife.

Meeting your protagonist should be entertaining and make us as readers feel like we've already got him or her pegged. Oh, she's one of those people.

So, to sum up:

  • use all five senses
  • put the MC in an interesting situation right off the bat (make sure the character isn't bored)
  • make us guess wrong - never let a stereotype stand

Try writing a first scene about your main character from the perspective of a mind-reader watching from a bus stop bench. How do the MC's thoughts reinforce or belie his other identifying features? Are his clothes ratty but his thoughts highly educated? Does he smile while he's in pain? How would a non-mind-reader perceive these contradictions? What physical evidence gives it all away?

Have fun and Happy Weekend!