Saturday, August 31, 2013


I am so excited to reveal the cover of my novel, Angus MacBain And The Island Of Sleeping Kings. Book one, will be released September 27, 2013, by Clean Teen Publishing.   

I would like to thank everyone here at Operation Awesome and everyone at Clean Teen Publishing for your tremendous support. Its been a wonderful journey to publication!  

Cover art by Lisa Amowitz

Angus MacBain is unaware that his ancestral roots hail from an ancient sect of Scottish kings. When his dying grandfather gives him a dragon pendant, thirteen-year-old Angus learns of a legacy that will take him across an ocean to the island of Iona and thrust him into a heritage he did not know he had. He soon discovers that his mother, whom he had believed dead, is really a seal fairy, in hiding from a dangerous enemy. To save her, Angus must undergo a perilous journey of destiny and power to battle an evil Dacian knight and those who serve him. With only his family shield and the advice of a wizened vampire hunter to protect him, Angus must navigate dangerous terrain and dark enemies, in a land where the past and the present mingle, and sleeping kings wake.

Lots of fun swag, contests and giveaways~~coming soon! 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Heads Up: Mystery Agent Contest Coming September 1st!

September has a Mystery Agent!!! And this is what our M.A. wants to see on Sunday (Sept. 1):

A 3-sentence pitch of your novel, maximum 75 words.

M.A. is looking for adult, young adult, and middle grade in the following genres:

  • Fantasy (all types, incl folk & fairy tale re-tellings and magical realism)
  • Adventure
  • Historical Fiction
  • Science Fiction
  • Romance (YA only)
  • Horror
(Dark comedy, original voices, and unique worlds a plus!)

If you've got a complete, polished novel that meets the above specifications, then ladies and gentlemen PREPARE YOUR PITCHES! The official contest post will be up the morning of September 1, 2013.

Since we've had some member changes recently, we've updated the blog schedule to include new members:

Click image to enlarge

You can also learn a little about our longtime and new members on the About Us page. 

As always, thank you for sharing your work and thoughts with us! We wouldn't be Operation Awesome without you.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Suki the Ninja Cat

Have a full day of editing, so today I'm sharing a clip of our new kitten, Suki and Pip our Puggle.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Word Count Clarity

When I first started writing full time it was simply for the love of writing.  I had trouble sleeping one night and an idea just popped into my head. The next day, I sat in front of a blank computer screen and started to type out what I thought was a brilliant tale.
The beautiful thing about the story was I didn't have any preconceived notions about what it took to write a good book. I was clueless about passive voice, POV, filter words etc. all I knew was I had a story in my head and I needed to get it on the page.

Once the story was finished, and what I thought was edited (haha!), I set about the process of learning about this small thing called querying. The day I typed that word into the Google search engine, my naïve little book writing world exploded. I didn’t know the first thing about genre. The book I'd written was YA (I knew that much) but was it fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi? Yep, remember how I said, "clueless."

As I went on to research other aspects of the query I came across an article on something called word count. Word count?  I thought you just told the agent the book was finished at XXX pages. Um, wrong again. Little did I know how incredibly important word count was to my category and genre. I clicked on the additional link from the article, and discovered a fountain of information I never knew existed. 
While these guidelines are not set in stone, there is a basic framework agents and publishers use when looking at word count for a manuscript. Here are just a few of the basics.* 

Realistic Middle Grade: 25K- 60K. Shoot for: 30K-45K

Fantasy Middle Grade: 35K-75K. Shoot for: 45K-65K

Realistic Young Adult: 35K-75K. Shoot for: 45K-70K

Fantasy Young Adult: 50K-150K. Shoot for: 65K-85K

Adult Books: 80K-100K. Shoot for: 80K-99K

Now many will argue that J.K. Rowling's, HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, was way beyond the Middle Grade threshold of 75k. And while that is true, it was NOT her first novel, and she had a proven track record. Most advice I've read from both agents and publishers encourages you to try and follow these guidelines for your debut novel. Once you've sold a few books, and have a proven sales record, publishers are more willing to work with word count.

These guidelines are not meant to curb your story or imagination, but rather give you an idea of what an agent or publisher looks for in these categories. If you are way above, or way below, these word counts it's a red flag for an agent or publisher that you've not done your homework. And who wants to get turned away before you've even gotten a chance to share your story?

So go on and write a gorgeous manuscript. One that is full of adventure or romance. But be mindful of what will work in your category and genre. You want your story to stand out for all the right reasons, NOT the wrong ones.


*Word count info was pulled from this post from Literary Agent, Jennifer Laughran, and this post from Chuck Sambuchino at Writer's Digest.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Writing and a Bicycle Built for Two

Most people who know me, know that I’m obsessed with vintage purple Schwinn tandem bikes.

Purple tandem in the 1965 Schwinn catalog
Some of you know me and some of you don’t. For those that have heard me go on and on about the vintage purple Schwinn tandem, please indulge me.

On my little piece of Internet real estate, I tell a story about a purple Schwinn tandem that lived in the garage of my neighbor’s house but belonged to every kid on the street. We all knew there was magic in that violet paint, those white gripped handlebars, those funky shaped seats.

Talk to any kid who spent their childhood on Sixth Street circa 1980s and say the words “purple tandem,” then stand back and watch what happens. We are transformed. We are transported.

No one knows what became of the mean purple machine that cruised up and down Sixth Street and beyond. But I’ve always known that if I couldn’t track down the exact purple tandem from my childhood, I wanted one find one just like it. I think having that tandem is a way to stay connected to my little kid glory days and a way to pass the magic of that shared neighborhood experience to my own kiddos.

In recent years, the purple tandem has taken on new meaning for me. It has become a symbol of my writing. On my little piece of Internet real estate, I say that writing for kids is like riding a tandem bike…you can do it alone, but it’s more fun when you have someone to share the ride. After several years of working on my writing craft and learning about publishing, I realize that sharing the ride isn’t just fun, it’s absolutely necessary to succeed.

This summer, two really spectacular things have happened. I found the elusive 1964 purple Schwinn tandem on Ebay. And I won it!

When that happened, I knew without a doubt that the stars were aligning for something big.

And I was right.

Because, as of last week, I accepted an offer of representation from Danielle Smith of Foreword Literary. So, I have a new purple tandem and a new partner to share the publishing ride!

There were many times I almost gave up my search for the purple tandem, or settled for something less than what I wanted because it would be easier (let’s just say finding vintage blue or green Schwinn tandem bikes is much easier than finding a purple…almost as difficult as finding an agent!). But I stuck to my vision and didn’t stop looking. The same goes for my agent search.

Despite this exciting news, I have work ahead of me. My vintage purple Schwinn tandem needs quite a bit of restoration before it’s ready to ride. And, with Danielle’s help, my picture book manuscripts need some fine tuning. Both should be ready to roll soon!

What’s your symbol that embodies your writing and your writing journey?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

All Work and No Play . . .

With school starting in one week (Hooray!), it seems all I do is work anymore, and when I finally get home, I don't have any brain cells left to deal with anything else. Which is why you're getting this super insightful post today about absolutely nothing. But I will leave you with this because it's awesome.


Have a great rest of the weekend!

Friday, August 23, 2013

#keepgoing - on moving forward when you feel stalled

Happy Friday, Operation Awesome!

Some of you Twitteratis may have noticed a hashtag circulating through the writing community earlier this week - #keepgoing - in which writers tweeted about the ways in which they've moved forward, even when this time last year, it felt hopeless.

The reason I think the discussion was so important is that everyone needs that encouragement once in a while. I'm sure there are some rare specimens out there who haven't had a single hiccup in their road to publication, but for the rest of us, there's always something. Whether it's agent-hunting, the submission process, low sales, bad reviews, a tough editorial note, or even a smaller, harder to articulate problem, any number of these things can stop you in your tracks.

#keepgoing reminds us that no matter how it looks now, you never know how your career is going to change if you keep pushing on. But how do you do that when you feel stalled?

Here are a few things that work for me:

- Switch it up. Obsessing over the project that's making you anxious is like salting the papercut, especially when that project is at a point where it's beyond your control. But sometimes it's not a project that you're querying or on sub with, sometimes it's a WIP that's just completely blocked, to the point where you wonder if you can even write anymore. In those cases, sometimes you just need to stick with it and push through, but other times, a shiny new Word .doc can be the perfect palate cleanser. It depends on what works best for the project, and your own personal process.

- Talk it out with people who understand.  Writer friends are the best in times like these, because we get it. You don't have to stop and explain anything to them, and together you can untangle the mess that is your thought process. It's good, in this case, to recognize what you need - whether it's a cheerleader, a nice brutal critique, a plotting buddy, or just a good old-fashioned venting session. Or just someone who will distract you with a nice bottle of wine and some silly TV shows.

- ... and remember to talk to non-writing people as well. Because it's always important to have perspective. My friends and family are just proud of me for finishing a book at all, regardless of how my career goes, so it's good to have the reminder that that's pretty neat on its own!

- Remind yourself that in this business, no effort is wasted. The frustrating part, of course, is when you can't immediately tell where those efforts will pay off - but whether that project isn't as dead in the water as you think, or helped you improve more than you'll ever know, every word you write is helping you somehow.

That's what helps me personally, OAers. How about you?

Have a great weekend, and hang in there!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

We Interrupt This Writing Session to Bring You.....CAKE!!!

All right, I must confess.....I'm am fairly burned out on all things writing related at the moment :-) I've been on a non-stop roller coaster since last year and while it has been an amazing ride, I'm very ready for a nice break. (I'm also aware this will last approximately a day and a half before I start itching to write something again, but with a book due tomorrow and another releasing next month, right now all I want is a nap lol)

Anyhow, I thought I'd share a few pics of something else I like to do. Decorating cakes :D I don't get to do this very often - my husband doesn't like cake (I know, he's totally weird) so I pretty much only make them twice a year for my kids' birthdays. But here are a few I've made.

My son's 6th birthday:

Son's 9th birthday

Son's 5th birthday 

Son's 8th birthday

Stepson's girlfriend's birthday :)

Kids' Spring Parties at school

 Daughter's 8th birthday (and the nail polish bottles in the background are marshmallow and tootsie rolls) :D

Daughter's friend's 10th birthday

And now, back into the writing cave I go :-) Tomorrow, I'll send this baby to my editor and then...I think I might make a celebratory cake :-D

Monday, August 19, 2013

Structuring Your Novel by K. M. Weiland

There are so many great writing books out there, it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices. I pick up a lot of the Writer's Digest's line of books at the library's used book sale and that's been a great way to find the ones that speak to me and my writing style without laying down a lot of cash (or getting stuck in a subscription). I've found some true gems that way.

And yet, I still find myself turning to some old favorites when I'm really stuck in my writing. One of those is Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Succes by K. M. Weiland, and she's got a new book coming out on story structure that I'm eager to check out. Here are the cover and blurb:

Is Structure the
Hidden Foundation of All Successful Stories?

Why do some stories work and others don’t? The answer is structure. In this new guide from the author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel, you will discover the universal underpinnings that guarantee powerful plot and character arcs. An understanding of proper story and scene structure will help you to not only perfectly time your story’s major events, but will also provide you with an unerring standard to use in evaluating your novel’s pacing and progression.
Structuring Your Novel
will show you:
  • How to determine the best methods for unleashing your unique and personal vision for your story.
  • How to identify common structural weaknesses and flip them around into stunning strengths.
  • How to eliminate saggy middles by discovering your “centerpiece.”
  • Why you should NEVER include conflict on every page.
  • How to discover the questions you don’t want readers asking about your plot—and then how to get them to ask the right questions.
Story structure has empowered countless bestselling and classic authors. Now it’s your turn!

Stop by her blog tour that's starting this week, and go check out the wealth of information on her website, Helping Writers Become Authors! And feel free to leave a comment below with your own favorite writing book. :)

Saturday, August 17, 2013



What if Amarok and Triangles paired up? They could do some cool things!

Emma could take a cruise with Autumn through the Bermuda Triangle, and lots of crazy things could happen with all the alternate realities going on…

Autumn could take a cruise through Amarok’s territory, checking out the amazing glaciers and wildlife of Alaska while hanging out with Emma…

Or YOU could win a vacation of your choice and do whatever you like!

In celebration of the release of Triangles, Spencer Hill Press still has the Win A Cruise promotion going on, but it ends next month! The winner will be drawn in one month, so enter before then if you’d like the chance to win! 


 Have a great weekend everyone! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 2013 Mystery Agent Revealed!!

Our August Mystery Agent was......


Dr. Jamie Bodnar Drowley from Inklings Literary Agency!

Dr. Jamie Bodnar Drowley is a literary agent who comes to Inklings Literary Agency from Corvisiero Literary Agency.
Jamie has been selectively building her client list. She's an author and a long time critique member/editor, with a keen eye for detail.
In her other life she is an orthodontist, Air Force veteran, military spouse, mother of three, and animal lover.
In Adult, New Adult and Young Adult fiction Jamie is seeking fantasy, mystery, romance, paranormal, historical, contemporary, horror, light sci-fi and thrillers.
In MG she loves stories that make her laugh and are imaginative with a clear voice. She loves strong characters with distinct voices and unique story lines that stay with her long after she is finished reading.

And our Winners are!!

(Another Drumroll)

Grand winner- Full Request-
Pieces of Me

First runner up-First 50 pages
From Stacey with Love

2nd runner up-First 25 pages
Gideon and the Nightmare Demon

3rd runner up-First 25 pages
The First Drop

Honorable mention...10 pages
Nightfallen, An Absence of Light

WINNERS: Send query, synopsis and pages as attachments with Operation Mystery Agent Contest in the subject line to Operation Awesome HERE. We will forward to our mystery agent. 

We decided to find our more about Jamie. Here are her awesome answers:

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

Keep it simple. I want to know about the main character, their conflict and what is at stake. Don’t be elusive or vague. Tell me what happens in the story and what makes it unique.

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

Of course I love each of my clients' stories. Their stories all touched me and stayed with me for many reasons. I never get tired of re-reading Harry Potter. I loved The Mortal Instruments series, Eleanor and Park, and The Blessed Trilogy. I love all things Young and New Adult…

3. You participated in the Agentfest event at the Thrillerfest conference this year--what's that like on the agent's side of the table?

I love meeting authors and hearing about their stories. I understand the vulnerability and nervous jitters that comes with sharing your story. I tried to make each author comfortable and made sure that if anyone wanted to pitch, I was available. I think they may have shut the lights out on me at the end of the conference because I went past the scheduled time. ;-)

4. Any exciting agency news to share?

We have a several deals that are about to post, many new clients and some recent and upcoming releases. It has been an exciting year! Stay connected to the news on my twitter account @jbdrowley or my facebook page

Thanks to everyone who participated. And a special thanks to our mystery agent who made this month's contest so awesome!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Small town writing versus big city writing

A few weeks ago, my family and I went on our annual summer vacation, and compared the pace in the city we visited, the change of pace was huge. Here are a couple facts in order to set this story up properly:

* The population of our town: Approximately 55,000. Technically, our town covers 16.6 square miles and is surrounded by a perimeter of orchards, dairies, and fields of cotton, alfalfa, and things of that nature. 

* The population of Long Beach? Approximately 466,000, claiming 51.44 square miles. (Yep. Talk about a major difference.) Cars and houses and buildings are everywhere and even when you're just walking on the sidewalk, it feels as though you're constantly in somebody's way.

As you can imagine, the town of Long Beach is very busy. And loud. And... congested. (I'm sure this suits city-folk just fine, but it took us some getting used to.) My point is, the pace of our hometown and the pace of Long Beach were different in practically every way.

But back to our vacation. We were blessed to rent a home facing one of the main streets in town (cross the crosswalk, walk a few yards, and you'd be met by stairs leading right down to the beach at the end of the cul-de-sac), and the first time we checked it out, my husband was with us. A few days later, however, when two of my daughters and I decided to trek over there on our own, we had an... interesting experience. 

Minutes passed as the three of us stood at the corner, waiting for cars to stop so we could cross the crosswalk. It wasn't an intersection, so nothing specifically gave us the right to walk (except for the fact that we were pedestrians, and where we live it is always stressed that pedestrians have the right of way--I'm pretty sure this is a California law, is it not?). Though the sign posted nearby said 30 MPH, no one heeded that "suggestion". At times, the momentum of vehicles flying by actually forced you to take a few steps back. Finally, though, a nice lady driving a truck decided to wait for us. We smiled, appreciative of her unusual Long Beach generosity, and looked to our right, expecting oncoming traffic to see the stopped truck and us getting ready to cross and well, stop

Vrooooom! Whoooosh! Cars kept charging past. It was broad daylight. They had to see us three standing there, yes?

I looked at the truck. Someone pulled up behind her and started honking. Great, I thought. Now she was being blamed for the fact that everyone else was mean and inconsiderate.

Finally, after about a minute of this, we heard a man's voice behind us yell (I'm guessing from the window of a building, maybe?) "You just have to go! They won't stop unless you start walking!"

Uh, what? Charge into that traffic? 

I laughed, shook my head, and told the girls, "I'm not risking my life by walking out into this! That guy is crazy!"

To make a long story short, approximately thirty seconds later someone stopped and we (hurriedly) crossed. The experience was definitely one of those "city" experiences, and here's where I (finally) bring writing into the story:

Sometimes, the writerly world is a lot like Long Beach. Publication news, best-selling news, agent news, do-this-or-don't-do-that advice advice advice from everyone everywhere and so many other things are constantly being shared, tweeted, and blogged about, and it gets to a point where the information is a lot like that street we were trying to cross--loud, in a rush, and overwhelming. 

With so many things continually being broadcast, it's easy to feel as though you're going to be left behind. Like you'd better get your rear in gear and get that stuff out there, or you're going to miss your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (Hurry up! Everyone's going to pass you by! Who cares if it's ready yet--send that story out, publish it already, before it's too late and you're a nobody! What are you waiting for? You'd better do it like this best-seller did! Go go go! Any of those thoughts sound familiar?) 

But... is heading out into crazy-fast oncoming traffic the smart thing to do? Not really. Will getting out there a few seconds (or minutes even) make a difference in the overall grand scheme of things? Most likely no.

In the same way, I've found that rushing the writing process--throwing it out into the noise of the industry when a piece of work is not remotely ready--also isn't beneficial. Choosing to take the small town writing mentality versus the city one does, in the long run, benefit the writerly method in its entirety. I would much rather be a country writer where I can sit back and enjoy the sunrise, the smell of the cows (well, sometimes), even the slow drivers. To me, it's not worth diving into oncoming traffic. Give me that extra time to push out a quality product and not only will I enjoy every step of the way, I'll learn more as well.

It's like coffee. Do you dump the beans into the coffee pot, add the water, and expect it to be ground, percolated, in your cup, and ready to drink? Of course not. Likewise, allowing our writing to go through each step of the process is a much more memorable (and educational) experience in the long run. Take time to grow your writerly coffee beans. Enjoy the aroma as it's ground and mixed with the hot water. Then when you sit down, cup in hand, you can relax and savor the taste of a perfectly prepared cup, knowing it's the best brew out there, and there isn't a single thing you would have done differently.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Every Writer's Kryptonite: Self-Doubt

One thing you'll find out about me quickly is that I'm always very honest in my posts. I don't mind sharing when I stumble in my writing or when I get an incredibly painful rejection. It's all part of the process of learning and growing and perfecting your craft. While I can admit my failures in the process, one of the hardest things to endure is the self-doubt.

You work tirelessly on a manuscript, or short story, only to send it to a trusted CP and find out it's junk. Too much passive voice, not enough showing, slow pacing, etc. It's easy to get down when these things happen. Convince yourself to throw in the towel on the whole writing gig. 

Every writer has been through this, even New York Times Bestsellers. It is the nature of the beast. But the key is to not get bogged down in the doubt. Allow it to swallow all the hard work you've done.

When I start feeling discouraged about my writing, I find these three things always give me perspective on my work and help me refocus:

1) Stepping Back

Many times we are way too close to our material, and are unable to see its flaws because we are so in love with the characters, setting, plot etc. I have a completed manuscript that needs MAJOR revisions. The story is one of the best things I've ever written, and I'm crushed I have to rip it apart. So you know what I'm doing? Not touching it for a month. I'm going to let the feedback from agents and CPs sink in. Once I've gotten enough emotional distance, I'm going to tear it to shreds and make it a thousand times better.

2) Reading

When I start doubting my work, I go back and reread my favorite authors. I pour over certain passages, or diagram a plot, just to get back to the basics of writing. As soon as I'm done devouring the book, I feel rejuvenated and ready to write again.

3) Talking to other writers

Hey, let's face it – misery loves company. Talking to other writers who are going through the same thing makes you feel less alone in the process. Writing can be a very solitary thing, but it doesn't have to be.  Reach out to buddies on Facebook or Twitter and ask about their process. I guarantee it will make you reconsider your situation, and give you fresh ideas on how to tackle an issue you're having with your own project.

In the end, there is no hard and fast way to get over self-doubt. It is that one sucky part about being a creative being that we have to get over. The key is to NOT let it consume you. Work through it in any way you're comfortable. And then, get your butt back in the chair and write. You'll be surprised by how much better it will make you feel!



Saturday, August 10, 2013

WriteOnCon Is Almost Here!

In case you haven't heard, WriteOnCon is next week! It's totally free and they're even having a first page contest with a chance to win $1000.

My favorite part is the forum. It's a great opportunity to get your query and your opening polished to a gleaming shine. And there will be Ninja Agents sneaking in to take a peek. Be sure to check it out! :)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Daoism and Inexact Comparisons

We all get down sometimes.  We start comparing ourselves to other people, or even to ourselves (the last novel / short story / whatever was so easy! we moan, eyes heavenward, forgetting that we felt this lost at least midway on *that* book's journey); we look at our work and think, why are my characters weak, why does my dialogue meander, why am I so *bad* right now?

At times like that I like to remember an early passage from the Daoist writer Zhuangzi.  Here's an excerpt from James Legge's translation:

"1. In the Northern Ocean there is a fish, the name of which is Khwan,-- I do not know how many lî in size. It changes into a bird with the name of Phang, the back of which is (also)-- I do not know how many lî in extent. When this bird rouses itself and flies, its wings are like clouds all round the sky. When the sea is moved (so as to bear it along), it prepares to remove to the Southern Ocean. The Southern Ocean is the Pool of Heaven.

There is the (book called) Khî Hsieh,-- a record of marvels. We have in it these words:-- 'When the phang is removing to the Southern Ocean it flaps (its wings) on the water for 3000 lî. Then it ascends on a whirlwind 90,000 lî, and it rests only at the end of six months.' (But similar to this is the movement of the breezes which we call) the horses of the fields, of the dust (which quivers in the sunbeams), and of living things as they are blown against one another by the air. Is its azure the proper colour of the sky? Or is it occasioned by its distance and illimitable extent? If one were looking down (from above), the very same appearance would just meet his view.

2. And moreover, (to speak of) the accumulation of water;-- if it be not great, it will not have strength to support a large boat. Upset a cup of water in a cavity, and a straw will float on it as if it were a boat. Place a cup in it, and it will stick fast;-- the water is shallow and the boat is large. (So it is with) the accumulation of wind; if it be not great, it will not have strength to support great wings. Therefore (the phang ascended to) the height of 90,000 lî, and there was such a mass of wind beneath it; thenceforth the accumulation of wind was sufficient. As it seemed to bear the blue sky on its back, and there was nothing to obstruct or arrest its course, it could pursue its way to the South.

A cicada and a little dove laughed at it, saying, 'We make an effort and fly towards an elm or sapanwood tree; and sometimes before we reach it, we can do no more but drop to the ground. Of what use is it for this (creature) to rise 90,000 lî, and make for the South?' He who goes to the grassy suburbs, returning to the third meal (of the day), will have his belly as full as when he set out; he who goes to a distance of 100 lî will have to pound his grain where he stops for the night; he who goes a thousand lî, will have to carry with him provisions for three months. What should these two small creatures know about the matter? The knowledge of that which is small does not reach to that which is great; (the experience of) a few years does not reach to that of many. How do we know that it is so? The mushroom of a morning does not know (what takes place between) the beginning and end of a month; the short-lived cicada does not know (what takes place between) the spring and autumn. These are instances of a short term of life. In the south of Khû there is the (tree) called Ming-ling, whose spring is 500 years, and its autumn the same; in high antiquity there was that called Tâ-khun, whose spring was 8000 years, and its autumn the same. And Phang Tsu is the one man renowned to the present day for his length of life:-- if all men were (to wish) to match him, would they not be miserable?"

There's a lot going on here, but the Peng (which Legge transliterated as Phang) is the gateway to the passage: a bird so big it needs more than a thousand miles of runway to take off.  And the little birds, which flit easily from tree to tree at a whim, wonder what use it is for the Peng to traverse the world from ocean to ocean in a single voyage.

The way I read Zhuangzi, he's saying the world is full of different kinds of perspectives that interact objectively but remain subjective--that we can claim the flight of the Peng is longer than that of the dove and cicada in terms of horizontal distance, but in terms of their own perspectives the two can't be compared.  They might as well be in different worlds.  The dove and cicada laugh because, to them, the Peng's journey is borderline incomprehensible, and thus hilarious; to the Peng, meanwhile, the dove and cicada don't even register, little mote-lives lost in the blue of distant earth.

Which is just to say: in writing, as in life, it helps to resist the urge to compare, even to yourself.  The Peng, after all, starts its life as a fish; before transformation, that fish would probably have laughed at the thought of growing wings and flying 90,000 miles south.  Each new project brings new challenges, dangers, opportunities.  Best to treat them with a spirit of laughter, and play.  Otherwise, it's all too easy to end up miserable.

Plotters and Pantsers alike - is it possible to go against your nature?

Happy Friday, OAers!

You all have seen the dozens of blog posts and discussions about plotters, aka compulsive planners and outliners, and pantsers, aka the improv masters of the writing world. I'm sure you've also seen the endless arguments for and against each. This is certainly not going to be one of those arguments, because in my humble opinion, those are silly.

But in general, I think it's safe to say that quite a few writers are more or less set in their ways regarding which one works for them. I, myself, am a total plotter. I have micro and macro outlines. Foreshadowing is my best friend. I even have foreshadowing charts. I love structure, even on the days when structure does not always love me back.

Since I have to wait a while before I can get back into my current project, and I didn't really want to start anything epic from my queue, I decided I'd pass the time with a fun little palate cleanser, and I decided I'd try pantsing it. That process always looked really fun, so why not give it a try?

I came up with the idea for the new story yesterday... and already I have a fairly significant chunk plotted out. Whoops.

So maybe I'm a bit set in my ways, but what about you guys? Was there ever a time where you 'went against your nature?' Or are you comfortable sticking with your own style?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I Am My Own Worst Enemy - Now A Proven Fact

I posted this a few months ago on another blog, but it is soooo apt right now it's not even funny. Actually, scratch that, given the original ending of this post, it's completely hilarious :-D Be sure to read that ending and the update, and try not to laugh too hard at me LOL

  procrastinator kittyI knew when I got published that I'd be busy. I knew I'd have contracts and edits and deadlines - but I wasn't worried. I actually work better under a deadline. I was sort of looking forward to all the hustle and bustle.

However, I didn't take into account my own proclivity for procrastination.

See, I tend to look at my schedule and think, "Ooo, I have 2 months to write this book. Piece of cake. I'll get started on it later."

But here is what I forget. Writing that one book isn't the only thing I'm going to have to do in that two month time frame. I will have edits coming in on other books, promo to do for all my books (and I cannot stress enough how much TIME this stuff takes), blog posts to write, crits for friends to do, proposals for future projects to do...not to mention the million and one family and home issues that need Mommy's attention.

And I'm one of the extremely lucky ones that is able to do this full time. I love that I get to write. I feel so incredibly lucky that I get paid to do what I love. But I will say that once those contracts are signed, a lot of the wiggle room goes out the door. It doesn't really matter if I'm too tired or don't feel like writing on any particular day. If there is a deadline looming, I HAVE to get it done. Like it or not.

It's become a job. It's a job I love and I wouldn't change anything for the world. But I don't really get to do the "eh, I just don't feel like it" anymore - not without consequences anyway ;-) (Those consequences usually involve extreme stress and lack of sleep due to full-on cram sessions as I try to get things done - cram sessions that wouldn't be necessary if I'd learn to not procrastinate ...I'm working on it) :-D *ahem...see updated ending*

Now, it's not ALWAYS my fault. Sometimes I do really well sticking to my schedule and things come along that prevent me from working. Life happens. You gotta learn to roll with it. I'm learning to not over-commit, to say no every now and then, to limit some of the "non-writing" extras I used to do. It helps.

But I do have to admit that I am sort of easily distracted :-D I do okay most days. But my life would be a lot less stressful if I'd just get out of my own way and get to work ;-)

This recent FB conversation between my hubs and I pretty much sums up my usual work routine:

 Hubs: Want to go to the store with me or do you just want me to pick up what we need?
 Me: You better go. I need to get some wordage done.
 Hubs: Yeah that's what you always say. You're such a procrastinator.
 Me: Whatever. I'm doing fine this time. I'm almost done. I only need 2000 words a day and I'll still be done with plenty of time to edit before I have to turn it in. I can do that easy.
Hubs: Uh huh - that's what you say now. And next week it'll be "I only have to do 2500 words a day" and the week after that it will be "I only have to do 3000 a day" and the week after THAT it'll be "Crap! I have to do 5000 a day!!!"
 Me: O_o *blushes 'cause I know he's right* :P

(This was the original ending to this post)
I'm starting a new book next week. I have two and a half months to get it done. I only need to do about 1500 words a day and I will be done early with several weeks to edit before it is due. Totally doable, piece of cake. THIS time I will not procrastinate ;-D

Update on that Ending:
Yeah, I procrastinated. *blush* but I'm totally chalking that up to extreme burnout :)

THEN, all the time I had sort of evaporated due to major edits being needed on another book and releasing book 2 of the Blood Blade Sisters series. Luckily, my current book got a few extensions. However, it is now due Monday. And really, my poor editor would love it before then if I can perform a miracle. See, I've changed some major plot points - twice - the most recent changes being made last night, and these changes resulted in major cuttage and necessary new chapters.

After all is said and done, I now need to write about 30k more to replace/update/and/or fix what I had. By Monday.....What's sad is I've done this before so I know I can pull it off. It's not going to be pretty though :-D I'd suggest staying upwind of me (and my house) until next week :-D

I solemnly vow to never procrastinate again :-) I will take into account the fact that my current WIPs are not the only things that will be going on in my life (writing and real) and that no matter how much time I think I have, I really have a lot less. I will do better with my time management and will try to stop making major changes days before my manuscripts are due.

In the meantime, if you need me, I'll be over in the corner in the fetal position crying into my laptop ;-)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Aloha, Operatives!

Since "aloha" can be used in both farewells and greetings, I thought it was an appropriate way to announce some changes here on Operation Awesome.

Firstly, we bid farewell to both R.R. Russell and Wesley Chu, whose schedules have made it difficult to continue their posts on Operation Awesome. We greatly appreciate their time and contributions, and they will be missed! But keep an eye on those two--they each have sequels in the works to their books released this year.

Secondly, join us in welcoming our newest members:


Jessica resides with her husband of sixteen years, three awesome daughters, and a plethora of pets in Central California, where fog, frost, triple-digit heat and various items of produce arrive bountifully, depending on the season.  She has an affinity for both coffee and owls, and loves to connect with other readers and writers whenever possible. You can find her on Twitter (@coffeelvnmom), FacebookGoodreads, or at her blog, Let Me Tell You a Story. Jessica writes YA and adult fiction. She shares reviews of her favorite books on Afterglow Book Reviews, and spreads the writing and author love for independently published authors at Indie Ignites.

PITY ISN'T AN OPTION, a young adult near-future dystopian novel about a guy and girl finding something they thought they'd long lost, is her debut novel. Jessica will be posting every other Wednesday, with her first post on August 14.


Amy has spent her life surrounded by books. As a child, her fondest memories are of following her mother and four siblings to the library every week to check out spectacular new adventures penned by the likes of Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary and C.S. Lewis. After college, she worked in the entertainment business in Los Angeles and eventually ended up surrounded by books again at Ingram Book Group in Tennessee.

Now a writer living in Arizona, she spends her time doing freelance public relations work and promoting her favorite non-profit event, The Cinderella Affair (

Her short stories, “Emanate,” and "Unearthed," are part of The Fall and Summer's Edge anthologies published by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. Her writing has also appeared in Liquid Imagination. When not “chasing the crazy” dream of being published, she feeds her addictions to good TV (Bones, Castle & Fringe), Barnes & Noble and mango ice tea. She blogs at and can also be found on Twitter (@atrueblood5). 
Amy will be posting every other Tuesday, with her first post on August 13.

Can't wait to see what these two bring to the Operation Awesome conversation!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Freedom, Deadlines, Contracts, and Obligations

I was asked to submit to a project, and boy, I love having an assignment. I love having parameters. I love working within limitations.

I'm not under contract -- I'm still writing under spec and my piece may not be chosen. But it's lovely to begin with a set of requirements instead of a blank page. I work best with a deadline -- I always have. That's when I stop dithering and get to work. Self-motivation is not my middle name.

That's why for many, projects like National Novel Writing Month work so well. If you need a deadline, give yourself one, in a very public way with plenty of support and accountability. A critique group can serve the same purpose.

On the other hand, I've never tried to draft a novel under contract, and from observing my friends, that's a whole other beast. Some of them get into the flow and manage to productivity that amazes me. Others find their creativity withering under the obligation.  Plot holes loom. Words stick. It feels like typing underwater.

I've also had friends succeed at writing work for hire and development projects, while others turn it down. Writing work for hire can be tremendously creative, satisfying work for someone who thrives on frameworks and deadlines, while it can seem like drudgery for those who need to work in the open. They burst with shiny new ideas that must shine in the corner, unattended. They long for the freedom to write whatever they want.

Do you work best with freedom or limits? How does your creative process differ when you're self-motivated, versus writing under contract or deadline? How do you create accountability that motivates you to keep going?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Adverbs Are Our Friends

And adjectives too. But just like our human friends and our furry friends (which, I guess, could include some of our human friends), it's best not to overuse them and take advantage of their magical friendship powers. :)

What? you say. Adverbs are evil! All they do is muck up our work and kill our prose. We have to fight back! Delete! Delete! Delete! It's our only hope.

I have to disagree. I use adverbs and adjectives all the time. Just used some yesterday—and I enjoyed it! And get this . . . I don't intend to delete them. Not even when I do revisions. Well, not all of them, anyway. Crazy? Maybe. But, what can I say? I like to live on the edge.

If you're still having your doubts, go read this article at edittorrent. It gives writers everywhere permission—permission!—from an editor, no less, to use adverbs and adjectives. Using good writerly discretion, of course.

Don't believe me? Go check it out for yourself. You'll be glad you did. :) And edittorrent is all kinds of awesome, so you might want to hang out for a bit and check out some of the other posts.

So, what about all of you? How do you feel about adverbs and adjectives?

Moment of Silence

My thoughts are with the people of the world tonight

God bless the people affected by this past week's disasters:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 2013 Mystery Agent Contest!


It's PITCHING TIME! Are you ready to enter? Pitch your completed novel to our Mystery Agent. August's Mystery Agent has requested the following genres:

Young Adult
Middle Grade
New Adult 

Light SF

Specifically looking for:
  • A MG mystery full of wit, suspense, and adventure. 
  • An authentic and relatable male protagonist in YA.
  • Something truly unique and different in NA - a story where the characters and their stories linger long after the book is finished.

This is a three-sentence pitch contest. Winner gets a full manuscript request from the Mystery Agent. 

This contest is open to veterans and newbies alike - so long as you have a complete and query-ready manuscript on your hands within the genres of interest, our guest agent would love to hear from you.

Contest goes live 9 AM central time and remains open until all entry spots are filled. The first 50 entries we receive will go on to our MA. Remember, this is a three-sentence pitch. Cheating with grammar doesn't count.
The official contest rules:

1) Entries must be three-line pitches. The word count of the pitch is up to you, but remember, it's only three sentences.

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) The winner will receive a FULL manuscript request!

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

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