Friday, May 31, 2013

Publishing Summer (and How to Survive It)

TGIF, everyone!

Somehow it is already the final day of May. The official start of summer is less than a month away, but where I am, summer has already begun, really. *delicately fans self* It also means that we are entering the summer doldrums of publishing.

I have often explained the concept of Publishing Time to excited friends and family members who are dying to know what's going on with my book - but even if we understand it perfectly and are getting used to it, Publishing Time can be a difficult adjustment for writers! After all, when we are in drafting/revising/rewriting mode, that driven, Type A intensity is a good thing... and then we get to querying/submission mode and we must flex our patience muscles a bit. We're entering a period of very little activity until September or so as people take their well-deserved vacations, which means we need to scale it back before our heads explode.

So where do you channel that extra writing-related energy in the interim? Here are some humble suggestions:

1. Read all the things! Sure, some of you might be lucky enough to live in a place without 2000% humidity and the occasional hot breeze. (I kid. Mostly.) And some of you are strong enough to venture outside anyway! But for those of you who would rather pull the shades and camp out at home, this is an excellent time to catch up on your TBR list. I know it's been sitting there for the past few months, staring at you accusingly. Summer is the perfect time to read a good romance... or a good summer ghost story, if you're me.

2. Find something awesome to do (that has nothing to do with writing.) And in the end, you'll usually find that it feeds into your writing one way or the other. I am basically part fish, so my favorite thing about summer is the chance to swim several times a week. Aside from the fact that it's great exercise, when I find a quiet time to do my laps, that often ends up being the best brainstorming fuel.

3. Start a new story from scratch, just for fun. I'm a huge fan of cowriting for this one - it keeps your improv skills sharp, and it shuts off that internal editor that can make drafting so tricky. But this largely depends on finding someone you can really click with, and a shiny new solo project will work just as well. Giving your creativity a workout might add new verve to your pre-existing WIP. Or, while playing around, you might accidentally create the Next Big Thing. It's a win either way, and lots of fun, at that!

4. Take a vacation. Or a staycation. One of the two. Either way, switch up your routine a bit and try to see something new. Even if you're not traveling anywhere this summer (*stares longingly at flights to London, lets out wistful sigh*) there's always something in your area that you haven't seen yet.

Happy writing, all, and stay cool this weekend!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adoption and Fundraising....or a 20k Advance.

Ok, so this post has little to do with writing. But I thought I'd take a few minutes out of your day to discuss my REAL life and what's going on.

For the past year, we've been working toward adopting a son from Bulgaria. We already have 3 kids, but we feel as if we have more room and more love to give to an orphan. Bulgaria is a country in Eastern Europe. Here is a picture so you know where it is.

So in the last year, we've been in paperwork pregnancy. And, let me tell you this: Being REAL pregnant is a lot easier. We've finished our homestudy and our papers are in the process of being translated to Bulgarian. And after that is all done, we get to wait for a referral.

A referral could take from 1-3 years. Which is a LOT longer than the 9 months I waited for each of my other 3 kids. But this is important. Our son is out there somewhere waiting for us. And, as we wait, I ran a few numbers and realized that we still have to pay around 20 thousand dollars toward our adoption.

Yep... You heard me. Twenty THOUSAND dollars. That is after spending over 8,000 this year.

Adoption is expensive.

Maybe I should finish my Middle Grade Book and sell it for some big bucks (cough....any agent out there...cough). Not sure they would do an adoption pity sale though? Probably not.

And we might have 3 years to make that money...or we might have one. (gulp). I figured it would be best to start trying to get the money now. So, I hope you don't mind, but I thought I'd do some fundraising promotions here on OA


Firstly, we signed up to sell coffee. Just Love Coffee offers fundraisers for people in the process of adoption. It's a good organization, as it doesn't only help people like us, but it also helps those in Africa earn a living.

Check it out HERE.  You can also see a picture of our family (and notice how tall my husband is).


I've also started an etsy store where I've been working on some handmade jewelry and things.  If you'd like to check it out, and pass the word along--and maybe even buy something so I don't look like such a geek-- that would be really awesome.

Linkage is HERE


And don't forget, I have a fantasy short story that I self-published a while back to help with our adoption. It's only .99 on kindle and all the profits go toward our adoption. It's a other world fantasy with a native american flavor. 

Link on Amazon is HERE:


And lastly, our daughter had these bracelets made up. We're selling the green and purple ones for $1.00 and the tricolored ones for $2.00.  Throw in a couple of dollars shipping for those of you who are not near me. If you're interested in them, just drop me an email and we can arrange something. (at)

Anyhow! Thanks for letting me share and pimp our fundraisers. If you'd like to help by sharing this post, that would be much appreciated!


And if some publisher/agent wants a great MG boy fantasy novel set in the world of Native American Mythology, that would want to give us a 20k advance....let me know as well. LOL.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Need Minions

I need minions. I don't need minions to help me take over the world. No, I need minions to help me with the million things I don't want to do (cleaning, laundry...). And I'd like it if my minions were like these cheeky little dudes:
View Image
(Image of Minions found here)

Why am I talking about minions? After watching Despicable Me, I got to thinking about the minions and their part in the plot. This led me to thinking about minions on TV and, of course, in literature.

Minions serve a variety of purposes:
1) They carry out the tasks we don't have time for.
2) They are often expendable. Think about the poor, unidentified crew member who beams down to the unexplored planet with the main cast in various Star Trek episodes. They wear red. They have no name. They usually bite it first. 

3) They provide diversions before the hero/heroine gets to the main antagonist. My favourite example of this is found in James Bond. If it isn't a guy with steel jaws or a woman with a knife in her shoe trying to kill him, Bond has to fight a guy with a bowler hat that can take his head off! 

Here are some minions in books that came to mind: 

1) In Harry Potter, Voldemort has his minions and co-baddies.

2) In The Twilight Saga, Victoria has minion vamps to carry out her plans. The Volturi have their followers and hench-vampires with powers.  

3) Dracula has Renfield and his vampire brides. Even Lucy has a bit of a victim/minion complex. Van Helsing has to get past them before he can get to the Count. 

Some minions can even appear to serve the villain, but don't. Some see the error of their ways and turn to the side of good. Some are just there for comic relief, but they all serve a purpose. And, like them or not, the story wouldn't be the same without them.

What about you? Met any book minions recently? Do you have any in your WIPs? 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Competing With Summer

As far as writing goes, summer is the toughest time of year for me. The kids and I pack up and visit family for two months straight. We always have a great time and the memories will last forever, but I have to turn my back on my characters and the worlds they live in.


1. Because my office is where I write best. I control all the distractions.  

2. While gorgeous locations can inspire my writing, I'm more inspired to go out and enjoy it. It's hard for me to send my kids out on adventures without tagging along- especially if said adventures call for swimming in a creek, 4-wheelers, or horses.

3. Non-writers don't understand the writing process. I can't write or edit and carry on a conversation (or watch a movie) at the same time. And it's kind of rude for me to try when I'm the guest. ;-)

4. I'm a binge writer. I like to be fully submerged for many, many hours at time--not in and out every 10 minutes with half an idea.

5. Lack of internet. I know this should be a plus, but without internet, I'm more likely to walk away from the computer when I need a moment, which of course leads to a full day of activity. With internet, I can check email or chat with a friend for a few minutes, then get back to work. That said, I do have some limited access, with bandwidth restrictions, but the nearest town (if I want full access) is 25 miles away. 

If I lived there permanently, I'd have to adjust my writing habits for sure. But summer is temporary, my kids will be grown soon, and I have to weigh what's more important. I'm grateful for the opportunity to offer such amazing experiences for my kids to grow on.  

If you have kids that are out of school for the summer, how does your writing compete?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Query Critique: Where All The Missing Pieces Go, a YA Fantasy by Christine L. Arnold

Today is the debut of our new query critique feature on Operation Awesome! Our first volunteer, Christine L. Arnold, sent us the query for her YA fantasy, Where All the Missing Pieces Go. First, the original query: 

Dear Awesome Operation Awesome Bloggers,

Thank you so much for hosting my query on your blog. I hope you enjoy taking a look at my query for WHERE ALL THE MISSING PIECES GO, my YA fantasy set in a world that’s a mix of steampunk and fairytale, and complete at 74,000 words.

Imprisoned by Madame Viola Grandosia, High Sorceress to Emperor Myloc, sixteen-year-old Jane Fisher is forced to perform the life-threatening ritual of painting the stars. The Sorceress is desperate for the power trapped inside Jane’s locket, but since it’s linked to her bloodline, she can’t wield that power while Jane lives.

Being a Mundane, Jane is protected by the Boxcroft Benevolence from the Sorceress’ usual, mess-free murder by magic, which is why she forces her to paint the stars. But the ritual doesn’t kill Jane. Instead, it steals a piece of her each time she performs it, creating living, breathing stars that take the shape of glimmering nymphs.

Before Madame Grandosia can rethink her plan of attack, Jane escapes to track down the stars that stole her voice, vision, and memories, which are now running wild across the kingdom of Gael. Finding them is the only way she’ll be strong enough to protect the locket.

What she doesn’t expect to find is the wizard whose soul is trapped inside.

WHERE ALL THE MISSING PIECES GO is a YA Fantasy complete at 74,000 words. It will appeal to teens who enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle and the vibrant world building of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

I have not yet published any of my work, but I’m very dedicated to growing as a writer. I’m a two-time attendee of DWF Writers Conference and Midwest Writers Conference, and a member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


And now, the query with my (Angelica's) comments:

Dear Awesome Operation Awesome Bloggers,

Thank you so much for hosting my query on your blog. I hope you enjoy taking a look at my query for WHERE ALL THE MISSING PIECES GO, my YA fantasy
set in a world that’s a that mixes (or perhaps a stronger verb like fuses or blurs)  steampunk and fairytales,  and complete at 74,000 words. You have the word count in two places and although it can vary, the standard seems to have settled into putting it at the end.

Imprisoned by Madame Viola Grandosia, High Sorceress to the Emperor Myloc (we just had a lot of names/titles in the beginning of this sentence so I don’t think we need to add in the Emperor’s name at this stage), sixteen-year-old Jane Fisher is forced (I’m curious about how she’s forced—is her family held hostage? Is it a threat to Jane herself?) to perform the life-threatening ritual of painting the stars.
The Sorceress is desperate for the power trapped inside Jane’s locket, but since it’s linked to her bloodline, she can’t wield that power while Jane lives. This sentence and the next were a bit repetitive and use some passive language; perhaps you could combine them into one stronger sentence. There does need to be a transition to the “But the ritual” line.  Being a Mundane, Jane is protected by the Boxcroft Benevolence from the Sorceress’ usual, mess-free murder by magic, which is why she forces her to paint the stars.

But the ritual doesn’t kill Jane as the Sorceress hopes--instead, it steals a piece of the girl each time she performs it. Creating living, breathing stars that take the shape of glimmering nymphs.

Before Madame Grandosia can rethink her plan of attack, Jane escapes, determined to track down the stars that stole her voice, vision, and memories, which are now running wild across the kingdom of Gael. Finding them is the only way she’ll be strong enough to protect the locket.

What she doesn’t expect to find is the wizard whose soul is trapped inside. This feels a little tacked on to me, which it shouldn’t if it’s supposed to be a big reveal . I think if you mention the wizard, you may have to do a little more explaining. Your word count has a little wiggle room to do that, or you could just leave off this line. You’re the best judge of how crucial this reveal is to the story, obviously.

WHERE ALL THE MISSING PIECES GO is a YA Fantasy complete at 74,000 words. It will appeal to teens who enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle and the vibrant world building of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

I have not yet published any of my work, but I’m very dedicated to growing as a writer. I’m a two-time attendee of DWF Writers Conference and Midwest Writers Conference, and a member of SCBWI. Nice way to handle not having any published credits, and still show that you’re concentrating on craft.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Fantasy novels are so difficult to summarize in a query because if you put in too much of the worldbuilding, it’s overwhelming in such a short pitch. But if you leave out specifics, your book ends up sounding like every other fantasy book out there.

Your query blurb is actually fairly short (if you combine those two sentences) and although short and concise is generally better, this is a query that could benefit from expansion. You’ve got some great imagery with the stars/nymphs/memories, but I didn’t get much of a feel for Jane (or the Sorceress for that matter). We know Jane is the protector of the locket but that’s about it.

I’d like to know what about Jane makes her the heroine of the story, other than her bloodline. Right now, she seems like she’s more reactive (things happen to her and she deals with them—or doesn’t) than active. And since you put the wizard in there, how does his presence affect her? Does he complicate her life as well as her mission? Is this an element of romance in the story?

All in all, I think you have a world and characters I’d like to learn more about. You just need to let them show themselves in a way that makes us NEED to read more. Good luck and thanks for being our first volunteer!
Encouragement and feedback are welcome in the comments, but please make sure they're constructive and helpful. If we get a good response, query critiques will become a regular feature of the blog, so please let us know if seeing this critique gave you any insights into your own work!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Paper, Progress, and Elephants

The taiji master Zheng Manqing, in his book Thirteen Treatises on T'ai Chi Ch'uan, refers to an ancient saying: 'daily enhancement is measured by the thickness of a sheet of paper.'  I first read this sentence when I was a kid, around the time I encountered the old Boy Scout koan: 'How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.'

Both these sayings seem pretty negative at first glance.  Hard to find something flimsier than a single piece of paper.  An elephant is a daunting large meal to eat one bite at a time.  But time and determination turn both sayings around.  Stack enough pieces of paper together and you have a book.  Chomp down on one bite of elephant at a time, and you'll swallow the last bit sooner or later.  (If you have a big enough freezer to keep the rest of it fresh.)

The sayings do contain a caution, though.  Don't start any big project hoping to finish on day one or two or even thirty.  Don't despair when incremental progress seems insignificant compared to the magnitude of the task.  Be careful when you try to choke down three or four bites of elephant at a time: they can stick in your throat, and they're awfully chewy.

But if you keep from choking, or from tearing up your daily piece of paper in a fit of frustration, well—eventually you'll have to go looking for a new elephant.  Or for a new book to write.

Memorial Day for Your Charactera: Memory and Loss

Happy Memorial Day! In the U.S., the last Monday of May is the unofficial start of summer. Officially, it's a time to recognize the sacrifices of veterans and all of those we have lost. It's a time to remember and recognize the past.

It's also a good time to think about what motivates your characters. All great characters are motivated by loss and fear of loss, from Charles Foster Kane and Rosebud to Harry Potter and his parents.

Ask yourself:

  • What memories do your characters hold closest? 
  • Which do they try to forget?
  • What losses have they faced in their life that shaped them?
  • What do they fear to lose most?

Enjoy your parades and barbecues. Maybe enjoy an extra writing day! Remember and celebrate, and have a happy weekend.

Belmar beach after Hurrican Sandy, when the boardwalk was destroyed and many homes and businesses were damaged. This weekend the beach and boardwalk reopened, thanks to the efforts of community, federal and state agencies, and many other supporters.

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 2013 Mystery Agent Revealed!

*drumroll* Mystery Agent for May 2013 is...

Sara D'Emic of Talcott Notch Literary
(photo and bio from agency about page)

"I'm excited to be starting my career with Talcott Notch and am actively extending my client base. I'm looking for adult and YA fantasy, sci-fi, horror, mystery, and mainstream fiction (plus all the sub genres those encompass). I'll also gladly look at non-fiction science and technology. I graduated from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. I've been an editorial/PR intern for Last Light Studio and an editorial intern for Hanging Loose Press."
Her chosen winner, also the recipient of a full manuscript request is...

1st Place:
Name: Sarah Turnbull


Genre: YA gothic horror

Pitch: On an isolated island, beneath a lush canopy of resurrection ferns and prickly palmettos, a preternatural plague is unleashed across a grotesquely insular Victorian colony when orphans Haeden and Veanne unearth the dark legacy of their bloodline.

2nd Place: (Query & 50 pages)
Name: Leiann Bynum

Genre: YA Mystery

Title: Brothas Torn

Pitch: To prove his father is innocent of second-degree murder,sixteen-year-old Dhamell tries to find out who the real killer is by deceiving someone who believes his dad is guilty--his own half-brother, Tyrik.

3rd Place: (Query & 10 pages)
Name: Sophie Morton

Twitter: @_SophieMorton

Genre: YA Contemporary

Title: Mouse Trap

Pitch: Sixteen-year-old Marnie is concerned by her parents' disapproval of her unexpected reunion with her absent uncle, but she has little time to worry about the reasons why when her father fails to return home from work one night.

Woot for our winners!! We had the chance to get to know our Mystery Agent a little better in this mini-interview:

Katrina: What's your favorite thing about being a literary agent?
Sara: Getting a good deal for a client-- it's immensely satisfying when that happens.

Katrina: In your accepted genres, you list Mainstream. How would you define that genre? Is it more commercial? Contemporary?
Sara: I say mainstream to incorporate commercial/literary/general fiction. a.k.a, not in a particular genre.

Katrina: What would you say is a hallmark work of YA Horror (one that every horror fan should read)?
Sara: A good question; I have trouble thinking of a book that is the defining YA horror. I like the works of Marcus Sedgwick (especially White Crow) and Margo Lanagan.

Katrina: Not that we would bribe you to read our queries, but what's your favorite sweet treat?
Sara: I've gotten into salted caramel brownies.
Katrina: Mmmm.... good choice!

Sara D'Emic also shared some exciting new-book news (our favorite kind)! Recently she sold a New Adult sci-fi: Elected by Rori Shay, to Entranced Publishing.

Congratulations, Sara and Rori Shay! And congrats to all our winners and entrants! Thanks all for sharing your work.

Winners can send their queries and requested pages to Sara at the address listed here. Put "Mystery Agent Winner" in the subject line of your email.

Find more of Sara D'Emic around the web:

Writer's Digest Interview
YA Stands Interview
All The Right Stuff Interview
President's Blog Interview
GUTGAA Agent Panel Q&A

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pretty Dark Nothing, by Heather L. Reid

Today I have the awesome opportunity to participate in blog tour of my fellow Month9 Books author, Heather L. Reid. Her book, Pretty Dark Nothing, came out just last month. And today, on Operation Awesome, we are having Heather's book on here. I've also asked Heather a few random questions so you can get to know her better, and then you can run out and buy here book.  You can do that HERE or HERE.

Or don't forget to add it to your Goodreads list HERE.

Seventeen-year-old Quinn hadn’t slept a full night in twenty-three days. She’s terrified of the demons that stalk her dreams, pull her into a deep dark nothingness and whisper hauntingly of her death. Exhausted, Quinn dozes off in the school hallway, and Aaron, an amnesiac with a psychic ability, accidentally enters her nightmare. If Quinn can learn to trust her heart, and Aaron can discover the secret locked away in his fragile memory, their combined power could banish the darkness back to the underworld for good. That is, unless the demons kill them first.

Interview with Heather:

What was your favorite book as a child?
I can only pick one? There are so many books that suck with me over the years, but the one that stuck with me the most is A Wrinkle In Time.

 Who is your book character crush?
Right now it has to be Jon Snow from A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin

What movie can you watch over and over again?

Morning person or Night Person?

Flip Flops or Sandals?
Flip Flops

Favorite late night snack?
Tortilla Chips and guacamole


Heather L. Reid is both American and British and has called six different cities in three different countries, home. Her strong sense of wanderlust and craving for a new adventure mean you might find her wandering the moors of her beloved Scotland, exploring haunted castles, or hiking through a magical forest in search of fairies and sprites. When she’s not venturing into the unknown in her real life, she loves getting lost in the worlds of video games or curling up by the fire with good story. For now, this native Texan is back in the Lone Star State, settling down with her Scottish husband and dreaming up new novels to write.

Twitter: @HeatherLReid

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writing Munchies

When I'm writing, I have to constantly bribe myself past that sinking feeling of impending failure fuel my magnificent engine of creativity. Of course there's the staple, the life-blood of writers—coffee, to be sipped constantly. I like to munch on fresh blueberries and grapes while I work, too. They're small and unmessy and tasty and I can eat them without slowing down my writing process. But the heat of a first draft or a mind-boggling revision requires fuel a bit more refined. Refined sugar, that is. M&Ms and Pez are my favorites.

And now there are pretzel M&Ms, mint M&Ms, orange M&Ms . . . there are seriously some candy geniuses hard at work making my day with all those flavors.

Of course, really tough going or really great progress calls for a break and something messier—chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips dipped in milk. My comfort or my reward, depending on which reasoning best suits my craving.

Do writing and munching go hand in hand—or hand to mouth—for you, too? What's your favorite writing munchie?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Lives of Tao is out in the wild!

The Lives of Tao has been officially released! I had my launch party at NV Penthouse Lounge last Saturday, May 4th. If you lived within a hundred miles of Chicago, I wished you came! *cough* Kristal *cough*

Over 250 of my closest friends, family, and colleagues from all walks of my life came. It was like every facet of my life was suddenly crammed into one room. My writing friends were there, my Kung-Fu friends, my old coworkers, my Asian friends. Everyone. I think I saw half a dozen of my old bosses there.

The fabulous Book Cellar did my offsite sales and sold all but four of the 127 copies they carried of The Lives of Tao. They were kind enough to carry several of the other author's books that I invited as well. In the end, it was an awesome night.

Also, finally, it's not a real party if there's no cake!

In the end, it was a debut release party and to be honest, probably the only one I'll ever do ever again. If you're interested, you can pick up a copy here at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, or any of your local bookstores. Thanks everyone!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Marinating in Real Life: A Recipe for Better Moments on the Page

A large part of what we do as writers—or what I think we need to do—is marinate in real-life. Being in the moment is so important to creating moments on the page.  
I did a lot of marinating in real-life this weekend as I planned and hosted my son’s 8th birthday party. When the birthday milestones roll around, I try to soak up my kids’ kidness a bit more than usual. Never again will I have a seven year old boy. Nothing seems more important than remembering  every last bittersweet drop of him at age seven. He picked an air show theme (the Cleveland airshow is cancelled this year due to sequestration issue and he was supremely bummed out). On Saturday afternoon, my backyard was filled with high-energy eight year old boys and their five year old sisters. It was like picture book and middle grade characters smashing into one another at every turn—inspiration for my stories running through the grass. 
Hanging out with my son and a gaggle of his friends gave me a chance to soak up their kidness. (This is something teachers get to do every day, which is why I’m so envious of their profession.) It’s not only good for the soul, it’s great to fill the creative well.
So, my weekend word count is non-existent, but that’s ok.  Being in the moment with my kiddo and his friends will help me create better moments on the page this week. (Especially while eating leftover birthday cake.)
How does taking time off from word-count worries help your writing?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Brain Power at Zero and A Query Critique Winner!!

The last couple of weeks have been insanely busy for me, especially this past week. My brain is so fried I'm not sure how I'm able to form complete sentences at this point. But, somehow, in spite of the million end of the school year things coming through my office, we managed to process 1400 time cards and payroll is done (yay!). And school is out next week (double yay!), so things should be slowing down at work very soon. For now, though, I haven't had time or the mental capacity to even look at anything writerly, much less come up with a topic for this post. So I'm cheating. I promise to have something awesome and thoughtful next time around. :)


Have a great weekend, everyone! :)

Update: Thanks to all who entered the Rafflecopter for the query critique! The randomly-chosen winner is Christine L. Arnold. If your name wasn't chosen by the Rafflecopter Overlords this time, we'll be doing these periodically so you'll have more chances (you'll need to enter each time, we're not carrying over names). Christine's query, with our comments, will go up on the blog May 27th so be sure to check back!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Five Stages of Editorial Letters

Happy Friday, Operation Awesome! Today I want to talk to you a little about editorial letters. Whether you're working with an agent, an editor, or someone else in the business, it's a huge step to receive a professional editorial letter for your manuscript, and I hope you're really proud of yourself.

I'm here today, though, to tell you you're not ready. Oh, you're totally ready for the revisions. But you're so not ready for the amazing emotional gymnastics the process will put you through.

Stage 1: Adrenaline

You're doing revisions! THIS IS SO EXCITING! You have all these amazing visions of how perfect your book is going to be once you're done, and you can't wait to get started. You've got your document open, and you're all ready to dive into revising the heck out of it.

However, you don't have your editorial letter yet. You're not actually going to have your editorial letter for a couple weeks. Take a deep breath, lower your blood pressure, and try to work on something else, or take a mini-vacation in preparation for all the hard work ahead. Don't burn yourself out too early.

Then you check your mailbox, and you see an e-mail from the agent/editor/etc with an attachment. It's here. Which brings you to...

Stage 2: Paralyzing dread

You don't even want to open it now. You have convinced yourself that this agent or editor is going to hate your book, because apparently, according to the voice in the back of your head,  agents and editors use their free time to work with books they hate. (Yes, logic has no place in the Five Stages. You're going to be ignoring that little voice quite a bit.)

Then you tell yourself, "Get it together, Mahoney. You're a professional." (Or that's what you would say if we shared the same last name.) And you open the letter, which brings you to...

Stage 3: All the feelings

Get ready for some dramatic ups and downs as you read your letter. Happyflail as you read about the things your publishing pro liked and cringe in mortification at some of the silly mistakes you made - sometimes both, in very quick succession.

And if you can, try to read your letter in a private place, just so you don't get anyone overly concerned. Although watching all these emotions play out on someone else's face would probably be pretty hilarious.

You finish reading the letter, and you let it percolate for a moment. And then you arrive at...

Stage 4: TERROR


If you're working with an agent, you might read their client books, and if you're working with an editor, you might read other projects they've worked on. But either way, those books are amazing. No way you could even get close to that kind of quality. And how are you even supposed to approach their suggestions, anyway? You don't know how to tighten the pacing in the beginning, or develop that certain side character, or make the romance more... well, romantic. The letter is probably right about all those things, but they're beyond your level of skill.

Except once you calm down a bit, you do finally pick up your manuscript again. Maybe you start with something I call "triage" - reading through your book and pinpointing the places where you could implement the changes your letter talked about. The more you think about it, the more everything starts coming together in your head. And you finally come to...

Stage 5: Determination

You've got this. You've got this 100%. Your original excitement comes trickling back, and you are motivated and ready to get down to business.

So set your cap at a rakish angle and go riding off into battle. You know exactly what you're doing, and your story is going to be so much better for it.

Best of luck, OAers, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Blitz! The Girl Guide by Christine Fonseca

The lovely Christine Fonseca has another amazing non-fiction book out! This one is geared toward helping girls find their way in the world; an absolute must read for any young woman and her family. Here is a little info about this fabulous book.

Summer, Girl Guide Style 

The Girl Guide is all about finding yourself and your unique voice in the world. And what better time to start on that journey than summer! Summer is a great time for renewal. The days are long, the weather, perfect, and the vibe – magical. So, as you’re taking a break from school or work, catching up with friends and family, and venturing out for a special vacation, why not add a little “inner” journey to your adventures and spend part of the summer discovering the “real” you?

Journeying inwards, like any trip, requires a map, some supplies, and an adventurous spirit. Fortunately, these things are easily acquired. A journal can become an ideal map to the inner you. Use it as you spend a little time each day reflecting on your dreams and hopes. Take stock of what you’ve accomplished so far, and plan where you’d like to go in the future. Then, once you have a good sense of your inner dreams and desires, make a plan for the future. Add new experiences, read different books, complete projects you’ve previous abandoned. In doing these things you can begin to cultivate your own authenticity.

And don’t forget to pack an adventurous spirit as you journey inwards. Embrace the you that lives within. You may be surprised the “you” you can get to know this summer.

Excerpt! The first chapter is available from the publisher at the following link:

The Girl Guide

Finding your unique voice in a noisy world can be hard—very hard. But not if you have a great guide! The Girl Guide: Finding Your Place in a Mixed-Up World is a must-read for girls in grades 6–8 as they enter the tumultuous world of adolescence. Packed with fun worksheets and quizzes, as well as stories from older girls and women, The Girl Guide covers everything a teenage girl needs to know on the journey toward her own identity. Proven strategies for dealing with stress management, confronting relational aggression, being safe online, navigating the changing mother-daughter relationship, and more make this the ultimate guide for any girl to get through the teen years and discover her unique point of view in the world.

Publisher: Prufrock Press
ISBN: 1618210270
ISBN 13: 978-1618210272


About Christine Fonseca

Critically acclaimed nonfiction and YA author Christine Fonseca believes that writing is a great way to explore humanity. Using her training and expertise as an educational psychologist, Ms. Fonseca is dedicated to helping children of all ages find their voice in the world. Her titles include Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students and 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids and delve into the often misunderstood world of giftedness and emotional intensity. May, 2013 will bring the release of the much awaited The Girl Guide: Finding Your Place in a Mixed-Up World, a book for girls in grades 6-9 that focuses on developing strong resiliency skills.

In addition to her nonfiction titles, Ms. Fonseca is the author of several YA novels including Lacrimosa (the Requiem Series) and the critically acclaimed YA thriller, Transcend. 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.

For more information about Christine Fonseca or her books, visit her website –

Author Links: 

Website/Blog –
Facebook Page –
Twitter -
Goodreads –
Amazon –
Pinterest -
Google+ -
YouTube -

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Remember, Remember: Query Critiques

I'm just going to post a little reminder today about the fantastic chance to have your query critique feature Angelica posted about on Monday.

Not read the post? Check it out here for more details.

Want your query critiqued? You still have until May 17th to sign up.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, May 13, 2013

A New Feature on Operation Awesome: Query Critiques!

In the comments on my query posts, Dierdre Riordan Hall asked for a query critique feature to be added to the Operation Awesome lineup. I've been getting more requests for me to crit queries, so I thought, "Why not?" Or, possibly, my thought was closer to "Hey, that's the perfect solution for when I don't have a blog post ready to go!"

But in any case, I will periodically put up a Rafflecopter asking for brave souls who would like to get their query critiqued on Operation Awesome. I will be critiquing each query, and other OAers will chime in as their schedule allows. Plus, the public can add their thoughts and encouragement in the comments. Sound good?

Great! Because the first Rafflecopter goes up today! Now! In this post!

It will be open through the 17th, and the critiqued query will go up on May 27. We're not requiring you to tweet, share on Facebook, or follow our blog(s) or Twitter accounts, but any of those are always appreciated! And 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. The Rafflecopter is helping us choose, but we need your email to contact you, so you need to be in both places. And this is my very first time creating a Rafflecopter, so fingers crossed that it works.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

In the US, today is Mother's Day, a time for appreciation of the mothers in our lives.  In honor of the day, here are some awesome literary moms.

  • Dorothy Dunnett's Chronicles of Lymond feature Sybilla Crawford, Dowager Baroness Culter, a whip-smart woman who's raised two sons of dramatically differing temperaments.  She scintillates, a class by herself in a series noted for schemers, wise-crackers, and brilliant wits.
  • While young Chosen One Paul Atreides is the ostensible hero of Frank Herbert's Dune, I've always been more impressed by his mother Jessica: rebel sorceress, political manipulator, a forbidding yet kind mother and brilliant teacher to her son.  Jessica stands out in my canon of literary mothers as a mother who is not reduced to her motherhood.  She has political and personal ambitions independent of her son, and is portrayed as an emotional and sexual being even as she's shown to be an excellent mom.
  • On the monster-mom end of the scale, the nymph Thetis in Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles is portrayed as a sort of ultimate Tiger Mother, driving her son to what she sees as his destined godhood and immortality.  The true brilliance of Thetis's character, in my opinion, is the way her motivations and character are slowly revealed throughout the story.  Initially unknowable, the ultimate Dark Mother, the book's protagonist slowly comes to understand Thetis, and Thetis to understand him.  Aaaand I'll stop here for fear of spoilers—the book's only been out in the States for a year after all!
  • We meet Daily Alice Drinkwater, of John Crowley's phenomenal Little, Big, as a young woman about to marry, and follow her through childbirth, motherhood, and the eventual assumption of matriarchal authority over the Drinkwater clan.  Her story is just one facet of the larger Tale (capitals intentional), but a phenomenal aspect nonetheless, and it's impossible for me to imagine Little, Big without her.
  • Cordelia Naismith, in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series, is the ultimate Action Mom.  Position filled.  No others need apply.  While she is only the focus of the first two Vorkosigan books (Shards of Honor and Barrayar, omnibussed by Baen as Cordelia's Honor), her adventures there cast a long shadow over the entire series, and literally change the galaxy.
Assembling this list, I found it interesting how often mothers are absent or dead, in genre fiction especially.  I wonder how much of that has its basis in the historical past, where childbirth was much riskier than it is today, and how much arises from cultural bias against talking about motherhood, or if I'm even making that impression up.  (Though I don't think I am!)  What do you think?  Or, alternatively: what mothers would you put on this list?  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Myth and Science Made Mainstream: Thor, Vampires, and The First Martian Colony

Thor is part of ancient Scandinavian folklore.

Usborne Stories from Around the World

But it wasn't until the 2011 blockbuster movie THOR that the Einstein-Rosen Bridge became associated with the mythical god in the pop culture psyche. Suddenly Thor's boomerang hammer and rainbow bridge aren't goofy anymore.

They're freaking awesome.

One of the things I loved about this cinema treatment of an old comic book/myth was the subtle combination of shiny technology and folklore magic. In The Avengers, Black Widow says, "These guys are basically gods."

Basically. But not really.

And in the first Thor movie, Thor says, "Your ancestors called it magic. You call it science. Where I come from they're one and the same."

*sings* Loooove iiiit!

One of the things I enjoyed about Twilight, aside from the intense rip-roaring emotion and curly-haired hilarity of Emmett, was the sci-fi idea slipped into vampire lore that the same evolution or God that brought us the shark and the angel fish could have brought us the vampire and the human.
"Well, where did you come from? Evolution? Creation? Couldn't we have evolved in the same way as other species, predator and prey? Or, if you don't believe that all this world could have just happened on its own, which is hard for me to accept myself, is it so hard to believe that the same force that created the delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby seal and the killer whale, could create both our kinds together?" -Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Why not?

Speculative fiction. My absolute favorite place to play. Whether I'm reading or writing, it's just a wonderland for the imagination, tickling the very edges of our knowledge with the as yet unknown.

It influences our scientists, engineers, inventors:

Self-driving cars, spray-on skin, and even invisibility cloaks have leaped off the pages, gone from science fiction to science reality.
"British Columbia company HyperStealth Biotechnology showed a functioning prototype of its new fabric to the U.S. and Canadian military this year (2012). The material, called Quantum Stealth, bends light waves around the wearer without the use of batteries, mirrors, or cameras. It blocks the subject from being seen by visual means but also keeps them hidden from thermal scans and infrared."
And maybe you don't know about this but I'll bet most of you do, there's a soon-to-be reality TV show all about the first colonizers on Mars, from selection to training to the actual flight and colonization of the Red Planet.

Ha ha! "The search for life on Mars begins on Earth." Brilliant!

Speculative fiction does a great service to humanity as well as being a ton of fun. It keeps us hoping for a better future, and sometimes warns us of technology abuses (cough, cough, Cybermen) that could destroy us in a horrifying echo of excruciating shrieks.

So, okay, some of it's scary. But that's only so we can resolve the conflict with the other side of the creativity coin.

Have you ever been inspired by technology or magic in fiction? 

Pass it on.