Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Rules Rules Blah-Humbug

Firstly, I'd like to wish everyone a peaceful holiday full of love, cheer, and sugar plums.

There are few times in the year when I'm not up to my eyeballs in work. It's usually refreshing for a day or two, then it becomes unnerving. I'm currently doing everything I can to hold off working on book 2 until the first of the new year so I can take full advantage of this OFF time. (I consider myself an obsessive binge writer...) So, I've been running around like a crazy woman with the release of DESCENDANT (which is going excellent by the way!), school closures for snow, my son's 13th birthday, last minute shopping, family traditions....

But let's get back to writing. While I do listen to a lot of audio books throughout the year, I tend not to read for pleasure while I'm writing or editing (lest I absorb someone else's style and lose track of my own). That said, being between projects, I have finally been able to read a few books for sheer entertainment! And you know what? I am reminded of a very important thing: THE WRITING RULES ARE NOT BEING FOLLOWED.

I know we all know this to some degree, but what rules/pet-peeves have you taken to heart strictly because they came from someone you respected ten years ago? Or because how-to books make it seem as though breaking rules is unprofessional and raises a "newbie flag" in the world of publication? (Please don't think I'm condoning first-draft writing as publishable.)

Head hopping used to drive me nuts. I'm starting to believe it's ONLY because I've always been called out on the slightest shift and it's annoying to see 'this' or 'that' book get away with it. But...I'm not a stupid reader and I can follow simultaneous PoVs without any trouble whatsoever. In fact, I'm starting to like it! I'm not saying everyone should do it, but if it makes for a stronger story and you can do it without being sloppy, go for it! Who am I to say you can't when so many published authors do it quite successfully?

I've always believed that writers are harder to please than readers—because writers KNOW what rules you're bending to suit a need. Most readers just want a great story and don't care how it happens.

So one of my writing resolutions for 2014 will be to trust my own judgment when it comes to rules, and to remember that the most captivating stories are not the best because they've been conformed, whittled, and slashed to fit into a suitable marketing box, but because they dare to have a life of their own with a certain magical spark of passion and creativity.

I leave you with this bit of editing (below)—as I found it both funny and sad. I wonder how many remarkable stories have been slaughtered in the editing process.

Monday, December 23, 2013

End of Year Wrapup

I've been purging closets and drawers lately, wanting to start the new year with an uncluttered and streamlined house. Much like when I'm rewriting, I find there are some "darlings" I'm holding onto  for inexplicable reasons. Maybe because so much time and effort went into their creation, or because I think I'll use it somewhere or somehow else, or I acquired it for some self that I wanted to be at the time.

So I'm going to create a "dump box," the equivalent of a "dump file." A dump file is where I put large sections of text that I think I might use elsewhere, but they certainly don't belong in this scene or chapter. Honestly, most of the time they quietly languish there, but every once in awhile I realize it was just in the wrong spot. Then I can recover it and put it in the right spot, without having to struggle to remember what I'd written.

The dump box will have items that I'm not quite ready to let go of, but putting them in the box will hopefully bring me some distance to decide if I really need it. After all, we have a fairly small house, and every item in it really has to earn its keep.

Hey--that's like writing too! Every word in a sentence has to contribute to the whole, as well as having its own weight. And here I was worried I wouldn't be able to tie housecleaning into writing for this post. ;)

Anyway, all the best wishes for you and yours and your writing from Operation Awesome! I'll leave you with a lovely winter scene from our snowfall a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Making a connection: sympathizing with the characters

Recently, I was asked a question for my upcoming blog tour for the release of If I Speak True in January. It was: What do you think makes a well-written story? I kind of surprised myself when I didn't even have to think before giving my answer: well-written characters, tension, mystery, and humor.

Later, as I was thinking about my interview answers, I had to laugh. Apparently, a plot--of any kind--wasn't even on my list of necessities. I've found that I love to be in the characters' heads more than anything, which leads me to today's topic: How do you keep that happy medium of delving into your characters' heads enough that you readers connect with them, but not so much that they can't stand reading it?

I know some people have felt that Pity Isn't An Option is way too into Jonas and Hattie's heads, and I get it. Sometimes readers are in the mood for a story like that, and sometimes not. Sometimes they're in the mood to get to know characters and coast along on their journeys, other times they'd rather see a wide scheme of things played out before they reach the back cover.

So here's my question for you: How, as writers, do you attain this? I've often seen reviews where readers share their frustrations of feeling no connection to the main characters (or the opposite--they were tired of the characters and wanted more action), and I've wondered, Does the author's voice have anything to do with this? Is it a conflict of personalities (the reader's and the MCs) that makes this such a touchy experience? Or, Did the author simply miss the opportunity to get you to sympathize with the character/s by not helping you understand where they're emotionally coming from, first?

Enabling the reader to sympathize with the characters is, after all, part of writing a "well-written" book in the first place--something all of us writers are striving for. Below, I've listed a few books that really made me connect, sympathize and root for the characters. 

How about you? We'd love to hear about your own personal character connections in the comments!

The House of the ScorpionNever Fall DownStolen: A Letter to My Captor
I Capture the CastleRose Under FireJude

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Should You Comp?

In the last several months there have been a lot of online writing contests.  As submissions come in, participating judges sometimes comment on social media about the glaring errors they see in queries and first pages. In a recent contest, a judge questioned why more people were not using comps in their queries.

If you're new to writing and/or publishing you may ask, "what is a comp?" A comp is a competitive title already in the marketplace that could be considered similar to your book. Many writers want to stay away from using comps because they're afraid agents may think it is too similar to what is already in bookstores. This can be true, but there is a reason why agents like to see comps in queries. This is the reason: If they are considering the book, they need to think about how they are going to pitch it to an editor. They also need to know where your book would go on the shelves at the local bookstore. These are all things agents may consider when deciding whether or not a book might be right for their list.

Say you want to use a comp. How would you go about finding one? With one of my recent manuscripts I used keywords to search both the Goodreads and Barnes and Noble websites. Once I read the summary, if I thought the book was similar to my manuscript, I either bought it or borrowed it from the library. After reading, if I felt it was in the same vein as my title, I used it as a comp.

A few other things of note regarding comps:

1) It is NOT necessary to include them in your query, but it IS one more thing that you can use to intrigue an agent into reading more.

2) DO NOT use major bestsellers as comps. No matter how brilliant of a writer you are, you HAVE NOT just written the next HUNGER GAMES or DAVINCI CODE. Rather, you should use middle market titles that have sold well and that agents may recognize.

3) You CAN get creative. In the query for ORIGIN, author Jessica Khoury likened her story to  James Cameron's AVATAR meets Ally Condie's MATCHED. If you've read Jessica's book, you know this is a pretty dead-on comp.

Queries are a tricky thing, but if you can find a good comp title you might want to think about using it. It may just be the added highlight that makes an agent request more!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mystery Editor Reveal + Winners!

Thank you so much to all who participated in the December Mystery Editor contest! And our Mystery Editor is...

Mandy Schoen from Swoon Romance!
Mandy Schoen is the managing editor of Swoon Romance. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, dog and books. When she's not reading or editing, she can usually be found hovering over her coffee pot, muttering nonsense until it gives her what she wants.

And the winners are:

THE WHITE LEHUA: full manuscript request, and a 10-page critique of this or any other work

LOOKING FOR ORION: full manuscript request

Congratulations to both of our winners! Please e-mail operationawesome6(at)gmail(dot)com for submission instructions, and include "December Mystery Editor winner" in the subject line.

And if you'd like to learn more about Mandy, check out our interview with her below:

1. Any tips for writers struggling with their pitches? Common mistakes you see in them?
The most common mistake I see in pitches is writers trying to cram the entire plot into the pitch, instead of focusing on the hook. A pitch, by design, is a few sentences designed to hook someone’s attention while conveying the basic concept, tone, voice, and genre. That’s a lot of work for a few sentences to do. Leave the details for the query.

2. What books have you read lately that you've fallen in love with (manuscripts you’re currently working with or others')?
I’m currently editing THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE, which is a new adult novel about a girl who moves from small-town Canada to London on a whim to redefine herself, and accidentally becomes famous. It’s seriously the funniest thing I’ve ever read. Which makes sense, since the author, Stephanie Wahlstrom, is hysterical.
3. What are you seeing a lot of in your slush pile lately? What would you like to see more of?
I’m seeing a lot of paranormal lately, and we’re sort of full up on that. On a smaller, semi-interesting side-note, I tend to see a lot of submissions with the same main character name come in at the same time. The last common MC name was Shelley.
I’m not looking for anything specific right now. I just want a love story that grabs me and won’t let go. How’s that for non-specific?
4. As a romance editor, what are some tropes you’re particularly drawn to? How about tropes that turn you off?
I love to see unique twists on familiar situations. I love “falling for the friend’s old brother” and “falling for the older brother’s friend.” I also love contemporary retellings of classic tales. One example is Stephanie Wardrop’s SNARK AND CIRCUMSTANCE series, which is a retelling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. We also just acquired a YA contemporary retelling of Rapunzel.
5. Any exciting news you can share?
Yes! We’re working on sequels to a few of our titles. One I can tell you about right now is the sequel to EFFORTLESS WITH YOU by Lizzy Charles, which has been one of our most popular young adult books. I’m so excited about this one!
6. And a few just for fun:

Coffee or Tea?
Coffee, definitely.

Sea or mountains?
Sea. I’m terrified of it, which I think is why I’m drawn to it. I’m not the most normal person ever.

Chocolate or bacon?
Um, there better never be a situation where I’d have to choose.
Ebook or print book?
Print. I buy a lot of ebooks, but there’s just something satisfying about holding a printed book.

Favorite tv show?
Right now? Probably The Big Bang Theory. Or The Mindy Project. Or Supernatural. Or…

Thank you so much to Mandy, and thank you all for participating in our final contest of 2013. Here's to many more success stories in 2014!

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Coming Soon!  March 1, 2014. Clean Teen Publishing.

Natasha remembers little from her Russian childhood, other than the lingering nightmares of her mother's tragic death. So when someone close to her hands her a one-way ticket to Russia, along with the deed to her family farm, and then is brutally murdered, she has little confidence about what awaits her in that distant land.

With doubt and uncertainty, Natasha has no choice but to leave her life in America for an unknown future. Once overseas, the terrifying facts as to why she was really summoned home come to light.

Fact one: Monsters do exist.
Fact two: The only thing keeping those monsters out of the world is an ancient mural hidden below her family's farm.
Fact three: The mural that keeps the evil out of the world is falling apart.
The final fact: It's up to Natasha to restore it and save the world from a horror unlike anything seen before.

Luckily, Natasha isn't alone in her mission. Three Russian Knights are tasked with protecting her from the demons as she restores the mural. And leading the Knights is the handsome and strong Anatoly, who seems to be everything Natasha could hope for in a man. Unfortunately, there is one huge problem. Her Knights are forbidden from having relationships with the artists they protect, and Anatoly is a hardcore rule follower. But rules cannot stop the way she feels.

When a horrifying demon breaches the barrier and pulls Anatoly inside the mural, Natasha can’t help but charge, once again, into the unknown—this time to save the man she secretly loves. Now on the demons’ turf, she risks her own life to free the very one who is supposed to be protecting her. Little does she realize that if she should fail, it could mean the destruction of the very last barrier shielding mankind. Will Anatoly refuse Natasha’s help? Or will he finally realize, when love is at stake, the rules will be broken.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Singular Focus

Over the years I have become the queen of multitasking. The other night I did laundry, cooked dinner, and participated in a conference call all at once. I was exhausted afterward, but I got it all done.

For most people multitasking is a part of their life, and the only way they can get all the things on their "to do" list completed. I get that and appreciate it. I can juggle pretty well, but there is one aspect of my life where I cannot multi-task, and that is with my writing.

I know many writers who have three different manuscripts going at once. And the even more amazing thing is they are in different categories and genres! How they pull it off I don't know, and believe me I've tried.

Earlier this summer I started querying my Young Adult Thriller and it came back with some requests for rewrites. Only problem was I'd already started my YA Historical Romance. I was in a groove with the YAHR, but I needed to work on the Thriller. For weeks, I tried to vacillate between both and guess what happened? They both started to suffer. In fact, I started switching the MCs names in the manuscripts. LOL! Not good.

While I applaud all those who can jump from one idea to another, it's not a skill I possess. For me there has to be one singular focus.  Oh, my mind may wander to that other idea calling to me from somewhere on my hard drive, but I have to push it away. 

The good thing about all this is that when one manuscript is finished, I know I have another one ready to go. And if a fluffy, new idea pops up as I'm working on the next thing? I file it away and wait patiently. I've learned my lesson - one thing at a time. It will all get done, it just may take me a looong time.

How about you? Can you work on several different projects at once? Or are you like me and must have a singular focus? Would love to hear about it in the comments!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December Mystery Editor Contest

Welcome to our last contest of 2013 - the December Mystery Editor contest! Yes, you read that right - Mystery Editor! Are your pitches ready to go? Today we are looking for your one-line pitch, plus the first 250 words of your manuscript.

Our Mystery Editor is seeking:
  •  YA contemporary romance 
  • NA contemporary romance 
  • and adult contemporary romance

and is not currently seeking YA paranormal.
The Grand Prize Winner will receive a 10-page critique, and our ME will request at least two full manuscripts for consideration. 

And here are the rules:

1) Again, you must submit a one-line pitch, along with the first 250 words of your manuscript. (If 250 cuts you off mid-sentence, you may finish that sentence, though.) If your pitch exceeds one line, you will be asked to resubmit.
* Make sure your pitch is not several sentences stuck together with commas instead of periods!

2) Entries must be for completed manuscripts. No unfinished drafts, please!

3) Entries must be left in the comments section of today's post (please don't email us your entries!). We'll close the contest once we've reached our limit.

4) You can only enter once today (only one project). If you participated or won previous MA contests, you can enter this one as well!

5) Please include NAME, CONTACT INFO, GENRE, and TITLE, followed by your one-line pitch.

6) The contest will close when we receive 50 entries.

7) If the rules aren't followed, your entry will be disqualified.

Please format your comment like this:

Email or twitter: 


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Spreadsheet Trackers: I Need Your Help

It's almost 2014! Can you believe it? I can't. Life is just flying by. :)

I'm working on a new word tracker for next year that I'm hoping to have ready to post on December 28th, and I wanted to get some feedback from those of you who have used the ones I've made in the past. 

The first one I posted back in March, and then I did one specifically for NaNoWriMo. I'd like to use features from both for next year's tracker. I'm just wondering what you liked and what you didn't like. Anything you really hated? Any features you'd like to see that aren't included in either? 

Please leave any thoughts or suggestions in the comments. Or if you prefer to email me directly, you can do so by clicking here

Thanks in advance for any and all feedback! I really appreciate the help. :)

Friday, November 29, 2013


Buy Another Little Piece of My Heart
I'm so thrilled to be part of the Scavenger Hunt for Tracey Martin's YA contemporary Another Little Piece of My Heart, releasing December 1! Comment on this blog for a chance to win Harlequin TEEN books and swag, and collect all 12 songs on the Scavenger Hunt to win the fabulous grand prize. 

But more importantly, read the book, which is irresistibly sweet, bitter, and true.  

Here's what Another Little Piece of My Heart is about: 

What if your devastating break-up became this summer’s hit single? In this rock-and-roll retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, music can either bring you together or tear you apart.

At her dying mother’s request, Claire dumps Jared, the only boy she’s ever loved. Left with a broken family and a broken heart, Claire is furious when she discovers that her biggest regret became Jared’s big break. While Jared is catapulted into rock-star status, another piece of Claire’s heart crumbles every time his song plays on the radio.

The summer after her senior year, it’s been months since the big break-up, and Claire is just trying to keep her head down and make it through a tense trip to the beach with her family. But when Jared shows up, and old feelings reignite, can Claire and Jared let go of the past? Or will they be stuck singing the same old refrain.

Here are the scavenger hunt directions:

In my post, you’ll notice that I’ve linked to one song from the Another Little Piece of My Heart Claire’s Summer Survival Playlist. There are 12 songs on the playlist in total, and therefore 12 stops on the scavenger hunt (posting from November 29 – December 1). Find them all, and discover 12 chances to win great Harlequin TEEN books and Another Little Piece of My Heart swag.

But there’s more! One grand-prize winner will be randomly drawn to receive a $25 iTunes gift card in addition to books and swag! To enter for the grand prize, send the complete, 12-song playlist, along with your contact information (including the address where you’d like to receive your prize) to the author by using this contact form: http://tracey-martin.com/contact/. The winner will be notified by email after the contest ends on December 5th.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the playlist using the contact form above by December 5th at noon Eastern Time. Entries sent without the correct playlist or without contact information will not be considered.

Here's what I think about Another Little Piece of My Heart:

I first read this book as a beta reader, and I was in love. As an underestimated middle sister, I've always had an affinity for Anne Elliott out of all Jane Austen heroines. But what if Anne didn't fade away after disappointed love, but dyed her hair bright orange, moved to a beach town, and joined a band? That's Claire. She's funny, outspoken, and smart. 

And so is Jared -- her one-time musical match, but now an international rockstar, out of her league -- and her life, unless they can stop being outspoken and just say what they really want.

Martin is a great writer, and Claire is a likeable, realistic character, one whose head I like to be in.

Here's the scavenger hunt song:

Song #3 in Claire’s Summer Survival Playlist 
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, “Running Down a Dream”

iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/runnin-down-a-dream/id359171619?i=359171994&uo=4

Here's how to enter the Operation Awesome contest:

Comment here by December 5 to enter the Operation Awesome giveaway of three Harlequin TEEN backlist titles as well as ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE OF MY HEART buttons and bookmarks. Easy!

Thursday, November 28, 2013


May your Thanksgiving holiday be filled with lots of good food and even more good books :)

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Operation Awesome!

Don't forget to top off your holiday weekend with our Mystery Editor Contest on Sunday, December 1st! Here are the details:
*50 entries, with one-line pitch and first 250 words.
*M.E. (Mystery Editor) is currently seeking Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult contemporary romance. *Not currently interested in YA paranormal.
*Grand prize winner gets a 10-page critique, and M.E. will request at least 2 full manuscripts for consideration.
*The contest opens on December 1st at 10am Eastern Standard Time.

Also, the awesome authors on my other blog, Scene 13, are doing a Gratitude Giveaway - you can enter to win a ton of awesome prizes (can you say FREE BOOKS!!) :D So head on over and enter!! CLICK HERE TO ENTER.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Successful Query & Another Query Crit Opportunity

Details on another opportunity to get your query critiqued are at the end of this post--just enter through the Rafflecopter!

But before we get into the critiquing, I thought I'd share the query that got me my agent (if you follow that link, be aware there are some f-bombs in the post--which I would never use on Operation Awesome!).

An even earlier version of my pitch for Crow's Rest is viewable here, in a video I submitted to Pitch University. A pitch I wrote before I'd even started the book, mind you. And there is some useful info in the comments, so be sure to check out those.

By the time I'd finished writing the book (and rewriting the ending), the focus of the pitch had changed to make it clearer that Crow's Rest is urban fantasy rather than paranormal:

Crow's Rest is a 72,000-word young adult urban fantasy novel with the wry humor of Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy series and the dark fantasy feel of Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series.

Sixteen-year-old Avery arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam's, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel. Instead, she discovers Daniel's body has been taken over by a corbin, a Fae which usually crosses into our world by inhabiting crows.

The corbin, Lonan, warns her that some of his kin are no longer satisfied with crow bodies. Or even the occasional accommodating human. They want to come here in their natural forms, with their full, terrible powers intact. It’s happened before, leading to the fall of Rome and the Dark Ages, but this time Lonan has been sent to stop them.

But in exchange for Avery’s help with his mission, she insists he bring Daniel back. They make a deal for the two boys to share Daniel’s body, switching between personalities in an uneasy truce. Until she starts to fall for the charming Lonan and realizes that even if they do save the world, only one of the boys will get sole custody of the body—leaving her heartbroken either way.

(Substituting an earlier version of this line here, since the one that ended up in this query is spoilery) Meanwhile, she discovers her family’s roots reach deeper into Faerie than she ever imagined, proving crucial to the survival of both worlds. 

I am a PAL member of SCBWI whose past publishing credits include a MG short story, “Hornworms", in Hunger Mountain, a YA short story called "Ebb Tide" which took third place in the WOW! Women on Writing Spring 2010 Flash Fiction Contest, and numerous nonfiction pieces in such magazines as Birds & Blooms and Sierra Heritage Magazine. In 2012, I received our SCBWI Regional Chapter’s grant to attend the International Conference in Los Angeles, based on sample pages of Crow’s Rest. I also contribute to the group blog, Operation Awesome, and started an auction in 2012 called Pens for Paws, which offers critiques and swag from agents and authors to raise money for a no-kill cat sanctuary, Fat Kitty City.

I had a pretty decent request rate with this query before agent/attorney Eric Ruben offered representation. And incidentally, Eric participates in both #AskAgent and #tenqueries on Twitter, which are great resources for writers polishing their queries.

And without further ado, the query critique details! Once again I'm calling for brave souls who would like to get their query critiqued by me (Angelica), and other OAers who will chime in as their schedule allows. Plus, the public can add their thoughts and encouragement in the comments.

The Rafflecopter will be open through December 1st, and the critiqued query will go up on December 9th. We need a contact in your entry, but it's okay to disguise your email from bots by formatting it like youremail (at) gmail (dotcom).

So if you're up for joining us in this experiment, you must sign up below. And then leave a comment telling us what age/genre your book is. This last bit has no bearing on whether you are selected since Rafflecopter does the choosing for us, but it's always interesting to see what you're working on. We will be emailing the winner and announcing their name on Twitter and Facebook on December 2nd, so it's worth your while to follow those accounts!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Another Spin of the Wheel

Many blog posts have come and gone while I have waited to share this news, and now I finally can. From Publishers Marketplace:
Kell Andrews’s DEADWOOD, when an ancient tree sends a message through carvings in its bark, seventh graders must break a code and a curse to save their doomed town…because the message isn’t just about the tree, to Jennifer Carson at Spencer Hill Press, by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Woohoo! A new contract for my debut novel, DEADWOOD. But yes, DEADWOOD was contracted before. As one of my friends quipped, it's a book so nice I sold it twice.

I wrote about the story on my blog here -- how I took a chance on a new small press, and how even though the publisher folded, the chance still worked out for the best. My wonderful editor Jennifer Carson offered me a new contract at Spencer Hill Press, where she is now senior editor.

I took a good chance. But you know what? It was a good chance even before I got the new contract. I'm really proud that I put my book through a small press, even thought I knew it was a risk.

Certainly all small presses aren’t the same. There is a wide range in the category — new and old, tiny and mid-size, traditional, e-only, and POD. Some offer advances, and some don’t. Some are genre specialists, and others are literary fiction vanguards. Some are open to unagented submissions, and some are closed. Some have great bookstore distribution, and others sell chiefly online. There is a range of quality in acquisitions, editing, marketing, and covers, from the highest standards to strictly amateur. Inevitably, some will grow into the big presses of the future (look at Spencer Hill!), and others will disappear. Yep, a lot of them will disappear.

So I did my research. I had realistic expectations. And most importantly, I had a fair contract and I was working with people I trusted.

And lucky me -- I still am. I get work with Jenn again, and my middle-grade contemporary fantasy will reach new readers when the new edition is re-released by Spencer Hill, a fast-growing, dynamic publisher with greater reach and distribution than before.

Ready for another spin of the wheel...

Friday, November 22, 2013

From Mystery Agent to Real, Live Book!

The most exciting M.A. success stories for me are the ones I get to see become real, actual books! From pitch to agent to publisher! Nancy Herman's ALL WE LEFT BEHIND didn't follow that path exactly. After our very first Mystery Agent Contest, in which Nancy won a runner-up spot with her pitch for a story about a young girl in the Donner Party, I was optimistic that this unique, haunting story would someday be sold. Sure enough, Mandy Hubbard signed Nancy as a client! In my mind it was only a matter of time. But things don't always work the way we anticipate, and a year passed, then more time. Nancy was awesome to keep us posted on the status of their efforts, and when I learned the submission round had stopped I was afraid Nancy's book would disappear. 

At the start of September, however, OA was pleased to reveal the cover of ALL WE LEFT BEHIND by Nancy Herman! With her agent's blessing, Nancy was going ahead with indie publishing.

And now Virginia Reed's story is out in the world for you to read!

Goodreads  Amazon

It is 1846, and thirteen-year-old Virginia Reed is pioneering two-thousand miles from Illinois to California with her parents, younger sister and brother, and the Donner family. She’s proud to ride ahead of the wagon train each day beside her beloved father, James.

But enthusiasm turns to alarm when her father and other party leaders make decisions that put the families dangerously behind schedule. Provisions dwindle. Hardships mount. Anger erupts. In a frantic effort to reach California before winter, the Donner Party takes an untried shortcut, with heartbreaking results. 
Virginia painfully realizes the fallibility of the adults in her life and begins to rely on her own judgment. When the party becomes trapped in the Sierra by early snows, she must find the courage to defy her father in order to save the rest of her family.

We are so thrilled to see Nancy's book out and about! Congratulations, Nancy!

In her own words:

I asked Nancy for the highest and lowest points in her journey: 

There were so many of each. But the highest point was receiving the very first copy of my published book in the mail and actually holding it in my hands. It was a moment I had imagined for a long time. The lowest point was probably the very first time an editor told me my manuscript (first draft) wasn't ready for publication. And I thought it was perfect the way it was! What a reality check. I had so much to learn. I've lost count
of the rewrites and revisions that followed!

Advice for other authors?

The most valuable thing I did when beginning to write fiction was to join a critique group. We were all members of SCBWI, and we learned and evolved together by analyzing one another's manuscripts in a very supportive atmosphere. The surprising advantage of the critique group is that I learned just as much about
where I needed to improve by critiquing others' manuscripts as I did by getting helpful feedback from them about my own.

LOVE THE COVER! Who designed it?

Yes, isn't the cover fabulous! It was designed by Victoria Faye Alday of Whit&Ware Design. She really nailed the emotion of Virginia's story in that illustration.

Now that Virginia's story is out in the world, what's next for you?

Marketing this book! My career background is in marketing communications, so I actually enjoy this part of the process. And I'm researching my next novel, also based on California history. 

Awesome! Thank you for spending some time with OA and CONGRATULATIONS!!! 

Mandy Hubbard thinks you should read it!

Happy reading, everybody! And don't forget to get primed for December 1st:

Contest Basics: 50 entries, with one-line pitch and first 250 words. M.E. (Mystery Editor) is currently seeking Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult contemporary romance. Not currently interested in YA paranormal. Grand prize winner gets a 10-page critique, and M.E. will request at least 2 full manuscripts for consideration. The contest opens on December 1st at 10am Eastern Standard Time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dead Jed by Scott Craven

Today I wanted to put a plug in for one of my fellow authors from Month9 Books.

Dead Jed: Adventures of A Middle School Zombie  

Coming December 1, 2013. Preorder Now!

Jed is not your typical middle school geek. He is, to use the politically correct term, "cardiovascularly challenged." And though his parents attempted to shield him from the implications of being different for as long as they could, when Jed was eight and at a friend's sister's birthday party, he blew his lips off onto the cake in front of everyone, finally prompting the Big Talk—and an emergency SuperGlue repair by his dad. Now as a target of Robbie, the supreme school bully, and his pack of moronic toadies, seventh grade at Pine Hollow Junior High is rapidly becoming unbearable. From being stuffed in a trash can as "dead meat" and into a trophy case as the bully's "prize," to literally having his hand pulled off in the boys' room and a cigarette put in it to try to frame him for the recent reports of smoking in the school, Jed's had enough and is ready to plan his revenge. (Jed's always losing body parts, but luckily, with a good stapler and some duct tape, he's back in action.) But Jed finds that it's awesome what you can do when you're already dead! He goes from underground underdog to over-the-top hero and proves you don't have to be living to have a lot of heart. For every kid who's ever felt different, been picked on, or kicked out, this is a heartwarming and funny story about surviving middle school, making friends, and keeping your limbs.

Amazon Link

And here is the new book trailer for Dead Jed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November Mystery Agent Reveal + Winners!

Thank you so much to all who participated in the November Mystery Agent contest - we loved reading your pitches! And our fabulous MA is..

Kaylee Davis from Dee Mura Literary!
Growing up in The Middle of Nowhere, Ohio, Kaylee’s lifeline to sanity was the local library where she nurtured her love of all things literary. Kaylee received a B.A. in English Literature and a B.A. in Sociology from Miami University, and she is certified in Copyediting from Emerson College. Recognized for her obsessive-compulsive attention to detail and crazy-fast reading ability, Kaylee joined the team as a professional copyeditor, proofreader, and administrative assistant. She has recently been promoted to Associate Literary Agent.
Find her on Twitter at @kaylee_davis_  
And the winners are...
Grand Prize (1): full manuscript req (with query+synopsis) with feedback


Honorable Mention (5): first 50 pages req (with query+synopsis) with feedback


Congratulations to all the winners! Please shoot us an e-mail at operationawesome6(at)gmail(dot)com for submission instructions!

And to learn a little more about Kaylee, see the interview below:

1. Any tips for writers struggling with their pitches? Common mistakes you see in them?

Think of a 140-character pitch as an opportunity to create a big impact while encapsulating the overall essence of your project. The most common mistake I see is when a writer is too generic and there’s nothing to really get excited about—the ultimate point of a pitch is to get your reader excited! Effective pitches are concise and evocative, and they focus on what makes your manuscript stand out.

Here’s a great example of a successful pitch*:

YA sci-fi: Sleeping Beauty meets Avatar in a world that pits cyborgs against humans, and Prince Charming is the rebel leader.

This pitch gave me goosebumps and I just had to know more. Immediate request.

*For more info on the fate of this pitch, please see below!

2. What books have you read lately that you've fallen in love with (your clients' or others')?

Of course I’m obsessed with all my clients’ work, and could never pick a favorite. But some other things I’ve read lately and have loved are The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Both have the character development and emotional depth that really sticks with me long after I’m done reading. And that’s pure gold.

3. What are you seeing a lot of in your slush pile lately? What would you like to see more of?

I’m one of those crazy people who actually loves my slush pile. I have found almost all of my writers this way, and even though it’s sometimes like finding a needle in a haystack, the process can be so incredibly rewarding.

That being said, I can’t say enough how often I see writers make the same mistakes:
- Not following submission guidelines. All writers deserve to start out on an equal playing field, no exceptions.
- Taking query rejections personally. I understand how getting a rejection can feel personal, but I promise it’s not. And ultimately you shouldn’t want to be represented by someone who’s not 150% behind you and your work.

- Querying too soon. My general advice for fiction is to get feedback from trustworthy people who aren’t family members or otherwise morally indebted to say you’re fantastic no matter what. Consider the feedback seriously and as objectively as possible. Revise. Then rinse and repeat until you’re convinced your manuscript is the absolute best it can be. Then it’s ready to send out.

      Things that I wish I saw more of in my slush pile: 
- Writers who mention following me on Twitter (and actually do). If you check out my feed, I guarantee you’ll have a much better idea of what speaks to me and what I’m likely to request. And you’ll have access to pitch parties I participate in, as well as query critiques and other giveaways I do. So if you query me traditionally, don’t be humble here. Tell me you follow me, or saw my #MSWL post that matches your concept, or something I mentioned that is relevant to your project. It shows me that you’re serious as a writer because not only are you carefully researching agents you’re interested in, but you are also actively building your social media platform.
- Fiction that explores alternate worldviews, from the conspiracy theories of Ancient Aliens to the survivalist mentalities of Doomsday Preppers. Think fun, fascinating, and psychological.
- Steampunk in MG through Adult. I’m still looking for an engaging concept that’s fantastically executed.

      4. I loved that, in your wishlist, you said that you'd like to see projects that explore character growth and identity. Could you talk a little more about that?

       The thing is, IRL no one stays the same. Identity isn’t this static force, this constant that never wavers. As we grow we change, and our interactions with the world influence our internal and external identities.

        No matter the genre, I think the strongest storytelling incorporates this change. The characters who show growth in ways both profound and mundane are the most evocative and real. And that allows readers to connect more emotionally to them.

      5. Any exciting agency news you can share?


    To that pitch I mentioned above. The author is Dina von Lowenkraft, and I’m very happy to announce that I just signed her! : )

      It’s incredible to say I found a client directly via a social media pitch event. Here’s the story.

       Dina’s pitch was strong, and I had just mentioned on #MSWL that I was looking for a cyborg project. Dina and I were already Twitter buddies so I knew she was very active in the industry, both as a writer and as Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium. Most importantly, however, Dina’s synopsis and writing in the first 25 pages really spoke to me. I requested the full, and ended up reading into the wee hours of the morning.

     I made “the call” after coordinating around my trip to the annual SFWA Reception and the ridiculous time difference between Belgium and Boston. Dina and I talked for hours about everything imaginable and could have easily talked for hours more. Most importantly, though we made sure we shared the same vision for her manuscript and that we were on the same page about edits.

       Dina hadn’t yet begun querying traditionally but already other agents had shown interest in her work. I was incredibly flattered she had done her research and knew so wholeheartedly that she wanted to work together. I always have a warm fuzzy moment when a writer accepts, and it will always feel like glitter and fanfare and magic.


6. And a few just for fun:

      Coffee or Tea? Both! In this weather, I’m gravitating to a hot honey latte (or two, or three) in the AM and Moroccan mint tea in the PM.

      Sea or mountains? Sea. The ocean’s the new frontier!

      Chocolate or bacon? Chocolate, on popcorn.  

      Ebook or print book? Print. And organizing my bookshelf like a crazy person.

     Favorite tv show? Sherlock and Doctor Who are pretty tied for me right now.

Thank you for joining us this month, Kaylee, and thank you to everyone for being a part of the contest! And be on the lookout for our next contest on December 1st. Stay tuned for more details!