Monday, January 30, 2012

February Mystery Agent DETAILS :)

So. We here at OA are hosting our monthly Mystery Agent contest this Wednesday, February 1st. 

*dances all over the place*

In order to get y'all prepped for the contest, I thought I'd give you our Mystery Agent's genre preferences a little earlier. That way, you'll know if our MA will jump at the chance to read your manuscript! 

These are the genres our MA is dying to see in ze slush pile:

Picture books
Middle grade fiction
YA fiction
Historical fiction
Literary women's fiction
Smart/funny/snarky literary fiction (think Christopher Moore Chuck Palahniuk)
Narrative nonfiction--heavy on the narrative

And these are the genres our MA *doesn't* want to see:

Paranormal romance
Straight romance:

  • Not interested in contemporary romance unless it's very literary and quirky. No modern-Harlequin titles, like the whole P.I.-falls-in-love-with-the-woman-who-hired-him angle. 
  • Our Mystery Agent loves historical fiction and would consider a romance with an interesting historical setting.
Genre sci-fi
Genre mystery
High fantasy

There you have it!!! Make sure to stop by this Wednesday so you can have a shot at a full request!! 

Happy Monday!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Idea File

It's said that ideas are a dime a dozen. I disagree. No one's paying me for them, but my story ideas are gold to me. I treasure my idea file almost much as my novel drafts.

My idea file has a few forms. It includes three partly outlined novels, a few paragraph-length summaries, a line or two each in individual Word docs, one long list of story ideas, a few snippets, a paragraph here or there. A few years ago it had nothing. Then when I finally started writing a novel, I had more novel plots than I could write. Then a few years later, a wrote a picture book. Now, thanks to Tara Lazar's Picture Book Idea Month, I have a couple drafts and a lot more ideas.

Often I review my idea file before a walk or drive so I can turn a premise over in my mind, transforming an idea into a story. Almost everything in that file (well, except a couple make-weights from PiBoIdMo, if I'm honest) seems tantalizingly viable. I just need the time, skill, and creativity to do those ideas justice ... someday.

So a dime a dozen? No way. I insist on the traditional penny-per-thought rate. Unless you have a 20 percent off Groupon, and then a dime will do.

How do you keep track of your ideas? Are you a one-at-a-time writer, or do you have a vault full of SNIs?

And get your pitches ready -- New Mystery Agent contest beginning on Wednesday, February 1!

Need inspiration? Read the i swim for oceans interview with Operation Awesome's Angela J. Townsend, author of AMAROK, a unique, dark, thrilling paranormal coming soon from Spencer Hill Press.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cover reveal: Updated Covers for Possession & Surrender

When the fabulous Elana Johnson announced via Twitter that she had a secret to reveal, I dropped my cookies and jumped at the chance to help her reveal it.

You remember these covers, right?:
PossessionSurrender (Possession, #2)

Gorgeous, right? Well here's what landed in my inbox from Elana...

First, I present the newly-designed cover for the POSSESSION paperback:

I love (and own) the original cover in hardback, but I think the graduated background colour really compliments the the butterfly in the ice. And did you notice the new tagline?

And here is the hardback cover for SURRENDER:

Again, I think the colour of the background makes the bird in the jar pop.

I'm normally a bit on the fence about cover redesigns. I like my books (especially the ones in a series) to compliment each other when they live on my bookshelves (I know, I'm weird *grins*). But I do love these new covers. Plus the cover backgrounds just happen to be two of my favourite covers. :)

What about you? What do you think about the POSSESSION and SURRENDER covers?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where Do I Send It?

So you have an unagented short story or novel that you want to submit for publication, but don't know where to look? Here are a few places that currently have submission calls out:

Entangled Publishing - several calls out for anthologies and a couple new lines

Pugalicious Press - looking for historical romance shorts for an anthology

Sourcebooks - they are actively acquiring single-title romances (90k - 100k words) for their Casablanca imprint. They are also seeking YA titles (60k - 90k words) for their Sourcebook Fire imprint

Samhain - They always have calls out and this time they are looking for Horror shorts and novels (12k -100k) and Retro romances

Inkspell Publishing - looking for Fantasy (any sub-genre; urban fantasy, paranormal, YA, historical, etc) (20k - 80k)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012



One little word provides HOURS, months of work.

We take our first draft jumble of words, hack them to pieces, rewrite, cut words, add words, tighten sentences, reorder scenes, show not tell, and generally make our story sparkle like a Cullen.

Everyone has their own ways of revising. I'm always curious to see the revision process another writer follows. Why we add, cut, change what we do to tell the best story we can. So when Maggie Stiefvater posted a dissection of a rough chapter of The Scorpio Races, with a description of why she made the changes, I headed over to see what I could learn to help hone my own revision skills.

And now ten other amazing authors have (like Kimberly Derting, Saundra Mitchell, Kiersten White, and Brenna Yovanoff)  have done the same. Head on over HERE to check out the links to the posts.

What about you? Any revision tips/tricks to share?

P.S. Don't forget to get those pitches ready for Feb 1st. We have another fabulous Mystery Agent lined up waiting. Details will be posted soon.

Monday, January 23, 2012

And The Golden Globe Book Contest WINNER Is...

Rebecca Little!!!!

CONGRATS, Rebecca! You just won a preorder of your most anticipated read of 2012:

Please email us your address to!!

And to those who didn't win--don't fret! We've got lots more contests on the way, including our February Mystery Agent!!! Stay tuned for ze details :)

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Writing Exercise: Status update story starters

Something occurred to me on facebook yesterday as I was posting a strange experience I'd had at the phlebotomist's office that morning. Facebook status updates (or twitter updates) can be great story starters. Maybe not for that amazing book I'm going to write someday, but definitely as a writing exercise!

Here's how it happened. I posted this little story:

Before the guy drew my blood this morning, he palpated the vein a few times and then muttered, "It's harder to find with gloves on." Just the thing you want to hear from the foreign-sounding phlebotomist before he sticks a needle in your arm.

People I know responded with a mixture of humor and horror at this tidbit, and then it hit me. That wonderful "what if." It wasn't a story IDEA, but just a plain old idea. What if I made that the first sentence in a story? Would it work to draw people in? It had been compelling enough to attract comments on facebook, which is at least some kind of barometer for compelling-ness. :) I decided with a few tweaks, it would be a fun first sentence. It could launch me into a story about a woman getting a routine blood test drawn or a teenager with a chronic illness who spends an inordinate time getting needles stabbed in her arm. Voila. Writing exercise!

Try it with twitter:

"Don't even think of sneaking in that sausage!"

Is it Mom scolding your little brother for trying to feed the dogs at the pound? Actually, the link goes to a news blip about customs agents with adorable beagles putting the smackdown on people trying to smuggle illicit foodstuffs into the U.S. Hee hee. Something about 'illicit foodstuffs' just makes me giggle. The fun thing about this writing exercise it that you can bend the first line into any story you want. That's what makes it a creative exercise.

Go ahead, look at the cinnamon rolls. Mmmm... 

"I got up this morning and made cinnamon rolls because I couldn't think of a reason why not to." 

What I love about this tweet is the way it shows Claudia's personality. Starting with a voicey statement is always great. As a reader, I'm immediately intrigued. (Remember, if you are borrowing your first line from another writer's status update (I follow a lot of writers at varying stages of their journeys), make sure it just helps you START your writing exercise or story. If you want to get it published, you'll need it to be all your own work, so that first line will have to be changed. (See fabulous writer movie Finding Forrester for the consequences of plagiarism)

Something you might find fun is going through your old status updates to see which, if any, would work as first lines. Since we're writers, we naturally put care into those brief snippet stories we tell our friends through facebook and twitter. You might find that some of your best work has already been started by you. It just needs a little (okay, a LOT of) TLC to blossom into something else. 

I can't be the only person who enjoys taking things out of context! 

Here are some more of my own facebook status updates, sometimes tweaked a little to be story starters (feel free to use any of them):

There is one girl on Sam's basketball team.

I've had better days.

Heating pad, you are my only friend.

Mmmm, baby likes honey. She's moving around like crazy in my belly.

I had the absolute worst, vivid nightmare last night. Maybe I should lay off the California rolls before bed.

Okay, that's enough of my strange life. Now look at your own facebook and twitter pages and see if you can't find something that could inspire a story. This writing exercise could turn into your next book. Or it could just get you out of a writing funk. Either way, it's a win.

Happy writing!!

And for funsies, in the comments, post your favorite status update, either by you or someone else (give credit where it's due, please). 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


We all know how important it is to get the beginning of our books just right. You need to hook the reader. We have to grab them enough to want to read on.

We know the middle shouldn't be saggy. That you need to keep the action moving. 

Then there is the end. If you've kept them with your MC for pages then the ending needs to be one that keeps them turning the page. 

Here is an awesome tip from author K.M.Weiland to help keep your ending exciting: 

What about you? How do you make your endings thrilling? 

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Golden Globe Awards... For BOOKS! And A CONTEST!

So. I love movies. And award shows. 

And, of course, books.

Since the Golden Globes were celebrated last night, I figured I'd have a mini-celebration today! 

Here's the deal: I'm going to share the category name on this post, and you lovely people will write your nominees in the comments. Easy, right?

The point of this is, well, so I can steal your nominees for my To-Read pile. Shameless, I know. 


But alas! A twist! One lucky commenter will win a preorder of their nominated book! All I ask is that you: 

1) be a follower

2) share your nominee on this post

3) live on Planet Earth (contest is international)

Okay. Here's the Golden Globe For Books Category:

Most Anticipated Read of 2012

You have until this Sunday, January 22nd to enter. The winner will be announced next Monday, January 23rd! Best of luck to all who enter!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shannon Messenger's Epic October Surprise!

Cruising along facebook this morning, I found this...

Which led me straight to THIS:

Written by the fabulous author, Shannon Messenger!

The goodreads blurb:

Twelve-year-old Sophie has always been different -- she's years ahead of the other kids in school and can read minds. She's always assumed there's some kind of logical explanation for her talents, but when she meets an adorable and mysterious boy, she finds out the shocking truth. She's never felt at home because she, well, ... isn't. 
There are secrets buried deep in her memory, secrets about her true identity and why she was hidden among humans, that others desperately want and would even kill for. And she must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.
Sounds epic, right? Hence the title of this post. This exciting new book comes out October 2, 2012. That's this year! (for those of you who, like me, still write 2011 on their checks)

*happy sigh*

I love it when super nice, hard-working people get their due, and Shannon is both super nice AND hard-working. If you haven't checked out her super-helpful writing blog, I highly recommend it, especially the Shannon Style series.

Now that I'm done fangirling, I want to know what books of 2012 excite you the most!

I'll get you started...

Endlessly (last of the Paranormalcy trilogy by Kiersten White) on July 24, 2012
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger on October 2, 2012
Deadwood by Operation Awesome's own Kelly Andrews in September 2012
Amarok by Operation Awesome's own Angela Townsend on November 20, 2012

What have you been waiting for in 2012?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We Read. We Write. We Read.

We all know, as writers, that it's important for us to read. Read within our genre. Read outside our genre. Read the back of that cereal box before you put the groceries away. (You never know what inspiration may strike from a box of Cornflakes. Aliens attack and the only weapon strong enough to defeat them is their intolerance to cereal products. It could happen, right? *grins*) 

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot."
Stephen King 

But there's something about reading that stirs something inside a writer. Whether it be the fantastic craft book you read that helps you solve that plot problem. The wonderful YA book that you connect with. The book that makes you strive to write something that makes others feel what you just experienced in that moment. The book with beautiful, lyrical writing. The imagery. Even the book you couldn't seem to finish can help with your own WIP. What made you stop? How can you avoid that in your own story? 

And then there is reading for the pleasure of it. The book that sucks us in, makes us forget about the craft  and enjoy the story. 

All writers read. We read to learn. We read for pleasure. We read to help us write. We write what we'd like to read. We read. 

What are you reading at the moment? 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Open Thread: Authors vs. Their Work

So. I've been thinking a lot about authors and their online platforms these past couple of days. Specifically, the kind of reputation an author has with those who follow their blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr accounts (whether they're hilarious/informative/inspirational/etc). In some cases, we might even buy an author's book because we like their online platform, even if the author writes in a genre we don't typically read (confession: I am SUPER guilty of this and am in no way ashamed of it).

But I'm curious about something else: what happens when things go south? Let's say you discover an author through the blogosphere/Internet, like their perspective on writing/life, and fall head over heels  for their books. What if the author does something that disappoints you? Not as a reader, but as a person (i.e. their attitude toward something you take seriously isn't respectful or tactful). 

This leads to today's open thread question: does an author's reputation come into play when you're choosing between reading their work or not? Or does content trump reputation?

I'm really looking forward to your thoughts!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sing your own song

It's a brand spanking new year!!

I LOVED reading Lindsay's post, The Year to Believe! I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Not just about believing in the process of writing, querying, and finally making it, but also believing in your own voice as a writer.

I've written about this before. It's something I struggle with that, despite my six manuscripts, continues to make me feel like a beginning writer. I obsess over 'getting my voice right' rather than going with my gut. A few members of my family have read my rougher drafts and then later drafts and been disappointed. "Why did you take this out? Why did you add in all these mucky details?" They liked the way it came out at first, raw and flowing. My little sister tells me repeatedly, "Write for yourself."

Write for yourself.

But I'm writing for publication. But I'm writing for a specific market. But I'm trying to get published here!

Write for yourself.

Some of the fun goes out of writing when we try to bend too much to the world. I think of the rule-breakers that have made a mark on the literary world: C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia sure aren't written the way you'd expect middle grade to be written. Nor is Where the Red Fern Grows, which starts out with an old man reminiscing on his childhood. Sure, the rules were different in other decades, but how different really?

Today, the rule-breakers are trend-setters, especially in YA. Twilight didn't follow any rules of plot that I'm familiar with, and yet it reached me on an emotional level from the beginning. I wouldn't call The Hunger Games a rule-follower, either. It set the bar for dystopian societies very high by being its own kind of book.

Agents say, "Write the best story you can."

That is the only rule.

Sometimes when they say that, I hear: "Write a better story than you possibly can," and I get a little depressed. Past rejection has a way of lingering way past its expiration date like little silver ghosts that float around my head and remind me, "not right for my list," "too similar to something else," "no place for this in the market."

It's so hard some days to write with those horrible little poltergeists swarming me from all sides. I wish I had a Patronus spell to cast them back a mile or two, just so I can...

Write for myself.

Expecto Patronum!

Did it work?

Ah, it did work.

The Year to Believe requires that we put our past failures in the past and not allow them to muck up the future we have planned for ourselves and our characters.

Write for yourself.

Believe in your voice.

Happy 2012!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Year To Believe

It's 2012. I know that's obvious (since we're four days into it), but the last few days have felt like someone snatched the end of 2011 away like the last cookie from the pack. *sniff*

But it's time to wave goodbye 2011. Time to smile. To focus on a new year of challenges.

I don't go in for resolutions. I used to, but resolutions feel like a huge ball of chaos and expectations that will explode on me at any second. And I usually forget about them by February.

But I'm not going into battle with the year unarmed. I've decided to focus on a word.

This year is the year to believe. Not just for anything I'd like to achieve, but for all of us.

I believe that you'll finish those first drafts. Those revisions.
I believe that you'll have another story idea.
I believe that good things are just around the corner.

Believe in yourself.

Because you are amazing.

And I believe in you.

What are you going to believe in this year?

Monday, January 2, 2012

In Which I Tell You To Bleed On The Page


*throws confetti in your face*


Okay, okay. Enough with the partying. Let's get serious.


Uh... yeah... I don't do serious very well...

So. Let's get sort of serious, shall we?

2012 is going to rock. Because I say so. Because you say so. Our wills are powerful beasts, my friends. This is true whether you've made new year's resolutions or not--either way, there are things you're going to go after this year. There were things you went after last year, right? And there are things you'll go after the year after this one. It never ends. So. With that in mind, I have a proposition for y'all. In 2012, and all the years to follow, I want you to do something: bleed on the page.

This might sound disgusting/gory/justplainwrong to some of you. I apologize for the mental picture. BUT it's not what it sounds like. When I say I want you to bleed on the page, what I mean is, whatever you write (short story/poem/novel), please write it from a place that makes you feel. It can hurt, make you laugh till you cry, or both. Doesn't matter. I want you to sit down and write something that costs you. Something that stirs the deepest parts of your core and never. Lets. Go. Most importantly, I want you to write something that forces you to pour everything that makes you you on that page. 

I'm not asking you to seek publication, or to write something suitable for publication. I'm not asking you to follow trends, or write something you think will be a trend in the coming months. 

I'm asking you to write for yourself. 

Because if you do, I might send this special surprise as a reward:

And you know what they say: NOBODY says "no" to The Skarsgard!!

Okay, okay. I made that up.

See what I mean about not doing serious very well? 


Now tell me: do you have any projects ready to be bled on? Or will you start new projects this year?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bring on 2012!

It's January 1, 2012, and the new year finds me feeling strangely optimistic. Strange, because this is ME talking, and I'm not known for wearing rose-colored glasses.

Better things are ahead -- for the world, I most urgently hope. When I read year-end news wrap-ups, it's clear that for many worldwide 2011 was a grim year, full of political upheavals and dislocations, economic hardship, and natural disasters. May last year's unrest yield a happier, more peaceful, prosperous year ahead.

And for me, better things are ahead, I think. DEADWOOD, my debut MG novel, is due out from a small press in September, and on Tuesday I start a new job, which may last only a few months but in the meantime will pay a few bills. My family continues to be healthy and happy. I think more good things are coming and I can't wait to see what they'll be.

I'm glad and grateful to have survived 2011, and I'm looking forward to 2012. What are you looking forward to?