Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top Ten Operation Awesome Posts of 2014

Tis the season for top ten lists! Look back with me on the top ten Operation Awesome posts of 2014.*

*Does not include critiques or Mystery Agent posts

10. Shifting Publishing Power Structures by Melinda Friesen
Guest blogger Melinda Friesen talks about the steps to getting a book published by a trade publisher and her decision to work with a small press.

9. Behind the Contest - A Few Pointers from a Contest Judge by SC Writer
Guest blogger SC Writer, one of the masterminds behind Nightmare on Query Street, Query Kombat, and other pitch contests talks about what catches his eye.

8. Tomorrow is #MSWL Day! by Amy Trueblood
OA contributor Amy Trueblood reminds us of some guidelines for making use of agents' twitter hashtag, #MSWL (ManuScript Wish List).

7. The Sibyl Reborn by Toni Kerr
OA contributor Toni Kerr interviews author J. Perry Kelly on his urban fantasy novel, The Sibyl Reborn.

6. Platypire World Domination by J. Hooligan
Guest blogger J. Hooligan teaches the world about a fascinating new creature, the playtpire!

5.  Numerical Motivation 2014: Using Spreadsheets to Increase My Word Count by Abby Annis
OA contributor Abby Annis shows how she uses spreadsheets to keep herself organized and accountable for her daily, weekly, monthly, and annual word count goals. Includes links to awesome spreadsheets you can use!

4. Submission Tips from an Editorial Intern by Jennifer Blackwood
Guest blogger Jennifer Blackwood shares the top things she looks for when a submission crosses her desk.

3. The Anchors that Weigh Us Down and How to Break Free by Karen McCoy
OA contributor Karen McCoy talks about the tough task of letting go of a manuscript so that you can move on to better things.

2. Adaptations and Loose Interpretations: Frozen and the Snow Queen by Katrina L. Lantz
OA contributor compares the Disney movie Frozen with the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale on which it's based.

and finally....

1. Settings that Pop by PK Hrezo
Former guest blogger, now official OA contributor PK Hrezo talks about the settings in her debut, Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc, and how she researched these historical places to make them pop!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reflect, Re-evaluate, Redefine

It's that time again when writers, as well as people in general, take some time to reflect. Maybe your 2014 soared beyond your dreams. Maybe it sank to dismal depths. Or maybe it left you in the same spot you were in this same time 2013.

Regardless your position on this journey through time, another year lived, is another year wiser.

While we should never live in the past, if we don't take notes from it, we're often missing out on vital life lessons. That's why, before I begin setting goals for the new year, I like to take some time for myself to 

Reflect on what I've accomplished thus far.
Re-evaluate what I want for myself, why I'm in this writing gig in the first place.
and Redefine my Big Picture. 

The Big Picture is different for each of us. What we want for ourselves and what we hope to achieve can change with each passing year. That's a good thing, because it keeps us moving forward.

I hope you'll join me in reflecting, re-evaluating, and redefining. Let's not get stuck in the past, or bogged down with what didn't happen for us. Instead, let's figure out how to find true contentment in our writing lives, as well as life in general. Sometimes the things we thought would make us happy, are only detours from our true destination.

Any last minute thoughts you'd like to share on this last Tuesday of 2014? What are your goals? Resolutions? Have you already redefined your Big Picture?  

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Art of Letting Go

In preparing for the New Year (Abby is right--the future is coming soon!) I've been thinking about the baggage I'm carrying into it. Not just literal baggage (I'm on a holiday trip as we speak), but the mental baggage too. Often, it can become heavier than we realize, and a lot of times we don't know why we're even carrying it.

Luckily, unnecessarily heavy baggage allows me an opportunity to assess whether I can let it go.

Elsa definitely had the right idea.
It got me thinking of things that take my brain energy on a daily basis. Sometimes it's social networking. Other times it's graduate school. But if I'm being honest, most of the drainage comes from my full time librarian job. On my other blog, I've documented some of the library questions I get, ranging anywhere from the mundane to the just plain goofy. (If you'd like more, Mental Floss recently posted some pre-internet questions from the New York Public Library). 
There is a lot I like about my job too. But when I'm able to separate myself from it, strip away what I don't need, it allows me to focus more on my writing and inner sense of well-being, both of which I intend to put front and center in the coming year. To do that, I need to ask myself the following:
1. What am I holding on to, and what makes it important?
2. What will happen if I decide to let go of things that might not be as important as I'm making them?
3. How can I prioritize what's important over the other stuff that isn't?
The first step I took was going dark on my other blog in December. As time goes on, I may be more selective about what I post there, at least until I get enough fiction writing under my belt to support the platform I've built for myself.
The second step I took was making a list of conferences I hope to attend. Google Docs is a great place for to-do lists, and if you need ideas on how to organize and prioritize, Getting Things Done is an excellent book.
Finally, per Abby's advice, I'm setting measurable goals for the coming year. Currently, I'm editing an old project and drafting a new one, and my goal is to have something submittable and polished by the end of 2015.
So what about you? What are you holding on to? Is it helping you? And if not, are you ready to let it go?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Setting Effective New Year's Resolutions

Can you believe 2015 is next week?! The future is upon us, people. ;)

For many of us, the start of a new year means it’s time to set some resolutions, so I thought it might be helpful to go over a few things that will help us set goals we can actually achieve. I like the S.M.A.R.T. goal method. If you google S.M.A.R.T. goals, you’ll find many variations on this method, but this is what works for me.

S – Specific: Focus on one or two small things for each goal. Making your goal too broad not only makes it difficult to maintain but it can also make it too daunting to complete.

To give you an example, I recently bought a new house. (Yay!) And when I say new, that’s not just new to me. I mean brand-spanking new. It was kind of miracle it all worked out and seriously the best Christmas present I’ve ever received. We’ve been very blessed this year.

Anyway, so new house means keeping it sparkling and pretty is all on me (and the teenage minions, who are selective about their helpfulness). I can’t blame past owners for something not being maintained correctly or the build-up of dirt and grime. If I want it to look good in ten years, I have to take care of it. The problem is I’m a terrible housekeeper. Really, really terrible.

I’ve set the same goal many times: Be better about keeping the house clean.

This goal has never worked because my focus was too broad, and honestly, the idea of keeping an entire house clean overwhelms me. And when I’m overwhelmed, my brain is very good at ignoring the issue, whatever it may be.

So when we moved in here, I set two very specific goals with the idea that I would add to them as time went on.

  •          Never go to bed with dishes in the sink.
  •          Do one load of laundry per day.
I admit the laundry one has been the harder of the two, and a lot of times I end doing two loads ever other night or 4 or 5 loads on Saturday. In my defense, I really hate laundry. That’s a good excuse, right? ;)

The dishes goal is the one that has made the most difference. We’ve been here a little over a month and there has only been one night I’ve gone to bed with dishes in the sink. This goal has given me something specific to focus on without overwhelming me. It’s been interesting to see the ripple effects. My kitchen is almost always clean and my mornings are much less stressful. It has even affected my budget. It’s much easier to come home from a long day of work and figure out dinner when the kitchen is clean. My desire to just go out and grab some fast food has diminished significantly, which, in time, should also have a positive effect on my waistline. :)

M – Measurable: Are you able to measure your progress over time?

My goal to do my dishes is a daily goal, so it’s very easy to measure. If the dishes are clean before I go to bed, mission accomplished. But not all of our goals are going to be this simple.

Let’s say you want to set a goal to complete two manuscripts this year. First you would need to make it more specific. What do you mean by complete? First draft? Revised and ready to query? And then you would need to set guidelines to make it measureable. How many words/pages do you anticipate in each manuscript? If you plan to have them revised by the end of the year, when would they each need to be completed to make it through your beta readers so you have time to revise? Based on your writing schedule, how many words/pages would you need to complete during each writing session to reach that goal? This not only gives you a final measurement for successfully completing your manuscript, but it gives you some smaller (and less overwhelming) goals to help make sure you’re staying on track to reach that larger goal.

A – Attainable: Is this something you have enough control over to make it happen?

It can be tempting to set a goal for something like getting an agent or getting a publishing contract. These are great things to aspire to, but you have very little control over the outcome. Sure, you can revise and tweak your work to make it better and in the process this will most likely make you a better writer, but no matter what you do, you can’t control the market and you definitely can’t control the tastes of the agents and publishers. Sometimes, I think even they don’t know what they want.

It’s best to stick with goals where you can put in a certain amount of work and know that you can make it happen. Maybe make a goal to query a certain number of agents or small publishers, or make a goal to get your query into the best possible shape. Goals like these could very well lead to an agent or a publishing contract, but they don’t focus all your success on something you can’t control.

R – Realistic: Are you biting off more than you can chew?

This is the one that usually gets me. When I’m setting goals, I am invincible. If I want it, surely I can make it happen. All it takes is the will to do it. Yes, this applies to life in many ways, but some things are just not possible. I know some people can pump out a new draft every one or two months, or write 10,000 words in a day. This is not a possibility for me. I have to schedule time just to get an hour of creative time every day. 500 words per day is more realistic, maybe even 1000 per day to push myself. Setting a goal that’s too high would only overwhelm me and make me avoid it, and as a result, cause me to fail.

T – Time-bound: Did you set a date to complete your goal?

Setting a deadline for completion of your goal helps to keep you focused and on task. Resolutions are often set for the whole year, but setting deadlines for certain aspects of a long-term goal, like a daily writing goal to reach an annual word count, can help you stay on track and keep it from getting pushed aside when other things come up.

And I wish there was a way to add a C in there. Maybe it’s silent—SCMART? ;) C is for Challenge Yourself. Don’t take the easy route. Look for ways to improve and make your life better. Achieving your goals will be so much more satisfying if you do.

So, what about you? Anything to add? Are you a resolution setter? What are your goals for 2015?

Friday, December 26, 2014

The 2015 Accountability Post

Happy Holidays, everyone! Whatever you're celebrating, I hope your year is winding down nicely and that you're getting some well-deserved relaxation.

So that said... is it too early to start talking about goals for 2015? ;)

While I am pretty good with self-set deadlines, I do work full time, and my days just seem to get fuller and fuller as I go on, and sometimes it's easy to shunt all my wordcount goals to the weekend. So I do find it useful to state my writing goals in a nice, public place. I wouldn't want to go back on my word, after all!

So while it's early, I'm setting my first goal of 2015: I plan to finish my current work in progress by mid-March. Sure, that leaves this notoriously slow-drafter three and a half months to finish a project that is not quite half-done yet. But it wouldn't be the first time I've surprised myself!

If you, like me, find it useful to shout your goals from the rooftops, then please do join me in the comments! What are some of your writing goals for 2015?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays!


photo attribution

May your holidays be filled with laughter, joy, love, and many, many books :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve is here. Hopefully you are all ready for the holiday season. This week I've been thinking about the different traditions people have to celebrate Christmas Eve. Some families have  a Christmas Eve box with treats in. Others will do an activity together. As for me, I always find myself wrapping presents while I watch Muppet Christmas Carol. 

Traditions kind of remind me of writing habits. We tend to stick with what we find works for us. Ways of doing things we enjoy. You can always try a new habit/tradition, but you will often find yourself revisiting the ones you like the best. 

Whatever your Christmas Eve tradition, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas. 

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Staying in Character

There were some hilarious Downton Abbey spoof videos (all in the name of charity) going around this weekend, and although they're fairly short I was impressed by how they were still able to play around with established characters. Downton Abbey itself is pretty melodramatic, so some of these things are not out of the realm of possibility! It seemed like the actors and writers were all having fun with these.

I had to share the links, so enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Feature: Wednesday Debut Interview

There are a TON of great books coming out in 2015, and many of them are the debuts, the author's first published novel.

As a writer pursuing publication, I love hearing about the exciting time in an author's life when their first novel that they've put so much work into finally becomes available to the world. So for 2015, I'm planning a monthly blog post in which I'll interview a debut writer, and give us all an opportunity to hear a bit about them, their new book, and how they got to that point.

In the interest of variety, I'm putting out the call here for debuts in all categories (children's books, middle grade, YA, New Adult, and Adult) and all publication routes (self-pub, small/independent press, and trade publishing). Since I'll only be featuring one per month, and some months have more debuts than others, not every one will be selected, but if you are interested in participating, please email me at wendynikel @ (no spaces) with the following information:

- byline/pen name
- name of book
- publisher
- release date
- genre/category
- tagline

Hope to hear from you soon!

NOTE: I will update this post when all months have been filled!

UPDATED 12/19:
I've received a WONDERFUL outpouring of interest, so much so that I think I'm going to feature two debut authors per month instead of just one, with a super-special quadruple-feature in May. The only months that still have slots open at this time are

- November

- December

Thus far it seems we have a great mix of Big Five, Independent, and Small Press publishers, but I'd love to get one or two more self-published authors to weigh in! We also have a good mix of Middle Grade, YA, NA, and Adult; I'd love to get another picture book author on board!

Thanks again for all of your help in spreading the word -- I'm VERY excited about having the opportunity to interview so many fabulous authors!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Emotion through Music

Imagine taking a morning walk outside, beside a beach. The day is clear and bright, the salty air, fresh. A breeze kisses your cheeks, and in the background is the soft lull of crashing waves, gulls calling to one another.

Nice, right? Simple and enjoyable.

Now take the same scene, only add in some New Age music. Suddenly that enjoyable experience becomes richer, deeper. Emotional.

Or how about looking outside your window on a stormy day? Dark clouds are gathering, thunder rumbles in the distance. It has a dreary, dismal feel, right?

Now add in a soft classical melody, and the moment becomes soulful and stirring. Tears burn the backs of your eyes, it’s so hauntingly beautiful.

Using music to evoke emotion in our scenes is a tried and true writer’s technique. We all know that in order to connect our readers with our characters we have to make them feel. More than words that tell, we need visceral emotion from our characters.  Have you ever stopped after writing a scene and asked, “Is that intense enough?”

I do all the time. And usually when I have to ask, it’s because I haven’t evoked the emotion the scene needs. Sure, it may pass as okay. But we don’t want okay—we want riveting.  

                                                        Photo Credit:

Not everyone can write to music, and I get that. Sometimes I prefer silence, or simple background noise like Naturespace. But when I’m struggling with the right mood for a particular scene, I dig into my musical library and sometimes take a good hour to find just the right song, then write the scene with that music playing.

It makes such a huge difference. I have my go-to songs for amping up emotion, whether it be angst or stress or heartfelt moments. And then sometimes a new scene requires something different, and I have to search all over again for just the right one. To me, it’s worth it to take the time to do this, especially when I need to nail a scene. For a scene in Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc., I had a best friends’ moment that really needed something other than a tune that suggested romance, yet I wasn’t evoking the right emotion by writing it in silence or with background noise. I finally found a random song off the Lost soundtrack and played it over and over til my scene was complete.
It gave me exactly the emotion I was looking for.

Ever notice in movies when you’re totally wrapped up in a scene, that it’s the music that’s carrying it? Happens all the time. Usually when I notice this, I make a note to buy the soundtrack, because it’s powerful music.

We can do the same with our stories. When we’re stuck on a scene or just not feeling the moment, we can find the perfect song, listen with our fingers poised over the keyboard. Let the music pull us in and go with the flow. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling, just feel the moment. Corrections can come later.

I prefer instrumental music usually, but there are a few songs with lyrics that have worked for me in the past. Don’t be afraid to experiment. A few of my faves come from these soundtracks:

Legends of the Fall
Ender’s Game
Life of Pi
Robin Hood (Prince of Thieves)

How about you? Do you have any favorite go-to songs for evoking emotion in scenes? 

Monday, December 15, 2014

I'll Make it Fit: Why Cramming Things Together is a Bad Idea

Having finished the second draft of my WIP, I've thought about my editing process, and what I learned from this past go-round. A lot of things came to mind, but the most important was the consequences of molding the story into something it wasn't (and having to back-track when that didn't work).

We've all been there, I'm sure. When revising the heck out of Plot A, Plot B comes along and says, "I'm the real story here. Plot A can suck it." So I cut too much to accommodate Plot B, and ended up having to re-add it back in (thank goodness for previous saved drafts).

The trick is to marry Plot A and Plot B in a way that doesn't feel forced:

"I'll make it fit!"
When we try to force story, it gets stifled, and turns into something it isn't meant to be. If you're encountering this, take a step back and see what your characters are doing.

That's right--I said characters. Not plot. Because the "making it fit" phenomenon happens when I'm trying to tell my characters what they're supposed to be doing. Making them speak, instead of letting them speak.

If you find that your novel is feeling forced, ask yourself the following:

1. Am I letting my characters discover their true selves, or am I adding unnecessary frills and forcing the story?

2. Does Plot B contradict the characters' actions that led up to the current scene? Or is there a way to tie it together to what will inevitably happen?

3.  Am I going wider? Or deeper? (Hint: Go deeper so the puzzle pieces fit, but don't feel forced.)

Once I found my villain's true motivation--simple, with no frills attached--Plot B finally said, "Oh! That's what you're doing. Okay, I can fit in this way..."

And because my villain's no-frills motivation was directly connected with my protagonist's inciting event, it let me see what was supposed to stay (and what needed to be cut). And at last, I saw my way to the end.

So what about you? What do you do when things don't fit?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Books for the Frugal Soul

Being a college kid, free things are hard to come by. But when they do, I am hard wired to snatch them up. You know, as long as its legal. This is true of free food but especially true of free books.

 Here's the unfortunate thing about books- they can be expensive and its hard to buy them in bulk. So what is a voracious reader with limited funds to do?

Well, there are libraries for one. Libraries stock books to be checked out and brought back. And a lot of times, when books become to worn, they give them away for free.

I also frequent book giveaways in which authors offer up free copies of their books. Its always a slim chance, but its a good way to spread the word and support the author. 

Now when it comes to books I really love, I will always buy them for my permanent collection. And I'll always write a review to encourage others to buy the book.

Now what not to do? Don't download books illegally. Support the authors. Its their livelihood. Find good deals on amazon. Support libraries. Write reviews and spread the word. These are all great things you can do for authors, even with limited funds.

Now if you excuse me, I have a huge stack of books to start reading.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Wrapping up the writing year

So it has come to my attention that 2014 is almost over. The end of the year has been just about as breathless as the beginning was, so I haven't exactly been keeping track of the day lately, but we're running out of time fast. So tonight, I'd love to hear about your year in writing!

2014 was a strange one for me, personally. At a glance, not many things have changed for me. But I finished a manuscript that took me two years, one that might have been tougher to write than anything I've ever worked on. I met a ton of really fantastic people, I went to my first conference, and I met even more really great people at my first conference.

I finished NaNoWriMo for the first time, which, given my slow-drafter tendencies, I didn't think I could do. I wrote a few pieces that I'll probably never show anyone, and I worked on a few projects that I hope lots of people will see... when I polish them up a bit. I learned how to better multi-task, how to switch it up and stretch different muscles, how to dive at the projects I want to pursue, whether anyone wants them or not. I got some practice being satisfied with the kind of writer I am, and the kind of work I want to do.

So even if this year wasn't the year when things happened for me, this was the year that made me more confident that I could keep going and keep pushing myself regardless. So I'm going to declare it a success!

Now you tell me: what was your year in writing like?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Frozen Guide to Ideas

I do love a GIF post. Seriously. I've got Van Der Queries here. And Buffy here. And a bit of Doctor Who here. Some Tangled. Let the tradition continue with the Frozen guide to ideas. 

The moment you wake up with a shiny new idea:

Anna Disney Frozen animated GIF

And you think:

frozen animated GIF

happy animated GIF

The exhilaration of jotting down some basic plot points: 

disney animated GIF

Although it can be hard to see where the story is going: 

animation animated GIF

And you think:

reaction animated GIF

So it's time for a break:

Anna Chocolate animated GIF

Sometimes a quick break is all you need to get back to feeling like this: 

excited animated GIF

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Scrivener VS Word

There’s always a lot of buzz about Scrivener this time of year, especially when they offer a 50% coupon for anyone who finished NANO!

Do you use Scrivener? Do you like it? Are you tempted to try the 30-day free trial?

I’ve had this program for over a year and I’m still on the fence about whether I love it or not. I like how it coverts files to .mobi and .epub easily enough, but it’s never as simple as the tutorials make it seem (in fact, nothing about the program feels very intuitive).

I usually have to export files into Word if I need to work at a different location on my laptop, then import the updated files back in (or cut and paste). And then I export back into Word to do all my final editing and formatting, then import back into Scrivener and override their settings to use Word settings to save as various formats...which seems like more work than it needs to be.

I really did try in earnest with my current project to do everything from the beginning outline to a readable draft in Scrivener... but ultimately, I gave up and pasted each chapter back into Word for a more thorough edit. (I’m glad Scrivener has a built in thesaurus now, but it still lacks a lot of the editing abilities that Word has—like telling you you've used the wrong word, even though it’s spelled right.)

The program truly has great potential for tracking multiple plot lines and various PoVs, but you have to tag everything accordingly to make the system functional. And during an extremely rough first draft (even with an outline), I find that I don’t always know enough about how the story weaves quite yet. Not to mention that when I import/export or cut/paste new text into the program, the new text overrides previous tagging.

I’d love to be THAT organized with my writing, but I’m just not. I’m an unorganized person. There! I said it. No matter what fancy abilities a program might have—it’s still up to the user to take advantage. Yet they say the program caters to the highly what am I missing?

Do you have any helpful hints on how to USE the program? Is it worth the long learning curve? (Is it worth the extra $ to have access to all the training videos?) Is it better than Word once you get used to it? Tips please!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Spencer Hill Press's Holiday Cheer Giveaway

I love being part of the Spencer Hill Press family of authors and staff, along with a few of our other Operation Awesome operatives, and I wanted to share the fabulous giveaway that J.L. Spelbring has put together! She says:

"Three lucky winners will win one of the three baskets filled with books and candy and books and even more candy, along with gift cards, swag, critiques, and just awesome stuff...You can enter everyday! The giveaway runs from Dec. 5th to Dec. 19th, 2014, central time."

(And psst....there will be a Crow's Rest ARC in there, to be shipped once it comes out!!!)

Find the Rafflecopter below, or go to J.L. Spelbring's official post for the giveaway, and fulfill as many of the fields as you like. And that's it--no purchase is necessary to be in the running for books, gift cards, critiques, swag, and yummy treats. Heck, you don't even have to keep all the goodies for yourself--you could cover half your holiday shopping list in one fell swoop!

Good luck, everybody! And happy holidays from Spencer Hill Press authors and staff!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, December 7, 2014

LIst Season

Santa's making a list and checking it twice. Kids have lists of what the toys and gifts they're wishing for. Grownups have their shopping lists and long tallies of "to do."

And every critic, blogger, and publication has a year-end list of the books that are best, most notable, most this that or other.

I'm not on those lists.

It's hard not to look at the names on the "best of" and wish I saw my book there. It's hard not to regret a little, to be a little jealous, even complain a little.

But that's OK. It's List Season, and I have lists of my own.

The books I've read.

The words I've written.

The stories I've sold.

The readers I've reached.

The agent, editors, and publicist who have stood by me.

The writers and bloggers who have supported my writing.

The librarians, reviewers, and booksellers who have supported my book.

The friends and family who have supported my everything.

The people I love.

Hey look! I just made another list. If I start feeling left out, I'll read that one again instead.

Thanks to all the friends of Operation Awesome for another wonderful year on the blog -- I'd list you too but it would be too long.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Happy Saturday,

There are many platforms a writer can have.

With my horror novel currently in movie production, I’ve learned to embrace the film industry and make it my writing platform. It has been such an exciting adventure—the best in my writing career.

Whatever your fan base, expanding your platform will make you a more successful author.

Most of us know about knowing our target audience, setting up a website, and planning long-term goals, but here are a few additional things that have been most helpful for me.

1. Hootsuite: It’s a great social media management tool. It saves time and lets you have multiple networks and campaigns in place. It is a cool tool that allows you to know what people are saying about your book and helps you respond quickly. 

2. Make a calendar of what you plan to do for the week and stick to it.

3. Look into groups or clubs that are offline and organizations with interests that are linked to your writing. Introduce yourself and your writing and see if there is room for them to include you in flyers, newsletters and other media. For example, I wrote a Russian YA Novel that was published this year by Clean Teen Publishing. I contacted a Russian travel agency and was able to be listed in their mass email list. I also contacted a YA group that was Russian based and was able to be included in their book club as well.

4. Create a media or press kit that really stands out. Create links, downloads and reader packages.

5. Partner with other authors and brainstorm. Attend writing conferences and have business cards or posters ready to hand out. Try to form new friendships and network with others by joining a book club or writers group.

6. Learn about Hashtags and use them with twitter. Follow those who follow you and share their tweets. Show an interest in others.    

Wrap it up—something about it being a time consuming process, but so worth it in the “long run” when it comes to successful book launches and fan support. Not to mention emotional support when things get tough in the public world.  

A sneak Peek behind the production of The Forlorned.


Actor Colton Christensen playing the part of Tom Doherty

Director Andrew Wiest and Producer Ryan Reed reading over the Screenplay

Cory Dangerfield as Murphy with Mitch Underhill and Colten Christensen
Come visit my website to see more behind the scenes and videos! Join my blog for exciting prizes.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Author Bio Mad Libs

At some point, whether you're writing short stories or novels, you're going to be asked for an author bio -- that quick little blurb that gives readers a glimpse into who you are. Since joining the wonderful folks at Operation Awesome, I've been reading and researching author bios in order to put together a little something to tell OA readers a little something about myself. 

After discovering that many author bios follow a similar format, I took that format at turned it into an "Author Bio Mad Libs" for your amusement -- and who knows, maybe it can help you write your own author bio as well.

Before you read mine, try it out for yourself!


Step 1: Jot down a word or phrase for each of the descriptions below

  1. Full name:
  2. Genre:
  3. Noun:
  4. Adjective:
  5. Plural noun:
  6. Award:
  7. Occupation:
  8. Gerund (non-finite action verb, usually ending in -ing):
  9. State:
  10. Number:
  11. Adjective:
  12. Animal:
  13. College major:
  14. 2-3 random letters:
  15. Gerund:
  16. Place:
  17. Gerund:
  18. Beverage:
  19. Sport:
  20. Famous author:
  21. Verb:

Step 2: Scroll down and fill in your answers in the author bio below!

(your name) is a (genre) author who has written about everything from (noun) to (adjective) (plural noun) and has won a (award) for his/her nonfiction book, "The (occupation)'s Guide to (gerund)." S/He lives in (state) with his/her family and (number) (adjective) (animal)s. S/He is a (college major) graduate of (2-3 random letters) and has enjoyed (gerund) in (place), (gerund) (beverage), and playing (sport) with his/her close friend and mentor, (famous author). S/He aspires to someday be the first full-time author to (verb) on the moon.

In case you were wondering, here's mine (with some tweaks for accuracy):

Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author who has written about everything from time travel to magical islands. She lives in Utah with her family and four imaginary puppies. She is an elementary ed graduate and enjoys taking photographs, drinking chai tea, and playing board games.

Post your Mad Libs Author Bio in the comments! How accurate is it?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Writer's Garden Party

Hi there! Today is my first official post and I just wanted to tell you how stoked I am to be here! I love that OA focuses on writing because over the past six years that's been my focus too. Which means I have TONS to share with you.

I knew you'd be dancing in your seat about that.

Quick intro -- I have two novels and one novella published, all part of an upper YA / New Adult time travel series. I'm also working on two non-fiction projects--one a memoir for the mom of a survivor, and the other a series of how-to books with another author. You may know me from around the blogosphere as I've been blogging for four years over at PK Hrezo - Fearless Fiction. You can now find me here every other Tuesday.

So what the heck is a "writer's garden party," right??

Allow me to elucidate ... There's an old song called Garden Party by Ricky Nelson. You can watch it on YouTube HERE if you're not familiar with it.

Over the years, this song has become more and more of a mantra for me. Even more so now that I'm a published author. Here are the chorus lyrics repeated over and over throughout the song:

"Well, it's all right now. I've learned my lesson well. You see, you can't please everyone so you've got to please yourself." 

Right? Don't you love that?? And the melody and mood of the song are so mellow and easy, it adds a contented acceptance to the lyrics. No anger. No bluesy melodrama. Just matter of fact and c'est la vie. 

Writing is like that. When we first start out we have so much to learn. We do our time in the trenches of critique purgatory and beta reading boot camp. We grit our teeth and forage through the growing pains because we know it'll make us excellent writers on the other side. We study craft books, attend workshops, sometimes endure a public flogging of our work, all so we can become better.

So others will read and love our stories.

And then there comes a time after all of that when we've earned a writer's garden party. We throw one for ourselves and toss aside all regrets and inhibitions. Because you can't please everyone so ...

                                             PHOTO CREDIT: pottery barn kids

... you've got to please yourself.

Case in point: With my most recent release, Induction Day, I knew there would be some readers who felt the first part was slow. But I also knew that for my story to work, the characters needed to grow a bit more together. My series is character driven. The story is about them, not the other way around. I deliberated over whether or not to cut some of the first part because I was afraid of losing readers. I had one critique partner tell me I should.

I had another critique partner tell me they thought the whole story was fast paced and how much they enjoyed the romance in the beginning.

Has this happened to you before? Conflicting feedback? Most likely yes. It's happened to me plenty of times, and it can be debilitating as a writer. So what did I do?

Threw a writer's garden party because I couldn't please everyone. I did what I wanted to do, which is follow my characters' lead. This felt right to me. I'm pleased with how my story turned out. But I knew when I published it that not everyone else would be.

Case in point number two: On my recent blog tour, one reviewer said the first part of the story didn't hold their attention as much as the second part when the plot really intensified. Another reviewer on the same tour said the exact opposite--that they preferred the beginning of the story when they learned so much more about how the characters intertwine and are bound to one another.

Same book. Different opinions.

This will always be the case with any book, movie, TV show, etc. With any story. Part of becoming an experienced and mature writer/author is learning to trust your instinct despite the naysayers. In the end, it's YOUR story, and only you knows what's best.

Don't get me wrong, I totally believe in getting as much feedback as possible and accepting constructive criticism so that our skills will grow. Chances are, if more than one critique partner or beta reader is telling us the same thing, then we need to listen and heed the advice. But if we're getting conflicting feedback, or if our gut is telling us one thing, and a CP another, then that's grounds for a writer's garden party.

                                          PHOTO CREDIT:

Go on ahead and throw yourself one. It's fresh and calm and relaxing in there.

"Well, it's all right now. I've learned my lesson well. You see, you can't please everyone so you've got to please yourself." 

So tell me, have you ever received conflicting feedback on your story? How did you handle it? Do you think trusting your gut can be wrong sometimes? Ever thrown yourself a writer's garden party?
Please share ...

Monday, December 1, 2014

December 2014 Mystery Agent Critique Forum --Open now!

Welcome back to the Mystery Agent critique portion of our contest. Those who wished to be included in the open forum are ready for your critiques.

Our rules are simple:

Be helpful. 
Be relevant. 
Be kind. 

Thank you to all of you, and to all our amazing entrants! Happy critting!

Visit the entries in the tab under the OA blog banner: MA Critiques.

Just a little more info about the forum:

You DO NOT have to register to comment.
To comment on a pitch, just click Reply on the main post in the thread. It will bring up a comment box where you can enter your name and comment.
To return to the full list,click December 2014 Mystery Agent in the top left corner of the forum.

Any questions? Lave in the comments below this post.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The NaNoWriMo Finish Line

Its the last day of NaNoWriMo and all over the world, writers are sprinting to hit their word goals. Many writers have already hit them and are collapsing into writing comas as we speak. I personally have written only a couple of words at a time since hitting my 50,000. My autumn of writing madness has burned me out, as it usually does.

But to all of you that have finished NaNo already- Congratulations! You did it! You wrote a whole novel in a month. That is a crazy accomplishment and you should be proud. Even if you don't like a single word you wrote. That's what editing is for after all. But for now, take a break.

I mean it. Lock up your manuscripts in a vault, or at the very least a folder on your computer that says DO NOT TOUCH. Go for a walk. Read a book. Reclaim your social life. Take a moment to breathe. You've done quite a bit of writing and you deserve to relax. I personally recommend setting your MS aside for at least a month before you look at it again. For one thing, it gives you your time and for another, it distances you from the manuscript.

And even if you didn't reach your word goal, that's okay. There's always next year. And every word counts. Fast drafting is a skill and its not required to be a successful writer. No matter what you wrote, be proud of it.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have my own writing coma to fall into. That and final exams. *Shudders*

Happy NaNoWriMo!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

December Mystery Agent Raffle Winners!

Here are the lucky people who are entered in our contest for December. If you are on the list, please
email us at OperationAwesome6 (at) gmail (dot) com with your Name, Query Letter, and first page, since our raffelcoper didn't collect everyone's information. Also let us know if you want to be excluded from our open critique forum.

Thanks for everyone's participation. Good luck and have a great Thanksgiving.

Kathleen S. Allen

Denise Drespling

Judy McSweeney

Kristin Hanson Reynolds


Jennifer Kay

Kate Shaw

Jessica Redman

Susan Berk Koch

Jennifer L. Hawes

Jamie Zakian

Megan E. Freeman

Kari Beutler Mahara

Stephanie Cardel

Lara Ursin Cummings



Kristen Adams

Rachel Cardel

Melanie Burt Stanford

Sheralan Marrott

Alison Whipp

JB Rockwell

Laurie Dennison

Patricia Moussatche

Angela Thomas


Stella M. Michel

Marty Mayberry

Colleen Bennett

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Take Time

Take time

Life is hectic. We spend a huge chunk of our days working and doing chores and caring for family/friends/kids etc., that it can be easy to forget to take time for ourselves. This is where a "me" moment comes in. 

I love spending time with family and friends, but it's nice to take some "me" time. Even if it's only for ten/fifteen minutes a day. My "me" moments tend to be when I'm writing (or thinking about writing with a bit of metal plotting). How about you? Is writing your "me" moment? 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Making a Book Trailer in Power Point

I've just spent the last week and a half or so making a book trailer for Crow's Rest, and I wanted to share a video that was really helpful. My first attempt at the trailer used my own video footage (which means it's free, and no rights and permissions to get hung up later) but I wasn't completely happy with that. It felt too disjointed, since some of the footage ended up being more metaphorical than actually illustrative of the script.

So I looked around for some tutorials on Power Point (I'd never used the program before) and found this video very helpful

It walks you through animation, transitions, and even adding narration, in an easy-to-understand tutorial. He also includes instructions on how to format your presentation so that when you export it as a video, you'll have an HD-quality YouTube video. Even if you are familiar with Power Point, you may find some tips and tricks in here that you didn't know.

I watched it once, and then dived into my own slide show, and referred back to this video a few times when I got stuck. The process wasn't nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be, and if not for my creative perfectionism that led me to endlessly tweak the script and image choices, it would likely have only taken me a few hours to create a book trailer using this method. And now that I'm more familiar with it, I could see using this technique to create some vlogs or videos for schools to use.

I also wanted to share another tool that I used to create an original soundtrack for the trailer; it's an app called LoopStack. There are other, similar apps out there, but this one was free to try on Android (you pay $1.99 to unlock more expanded features, but it's still a bargain) so I gave it a shot. Pretty easy to use, once you get the rhythm of it.

I encourage everyone to give a try on a trailer for their book--working on the script alone makes you look at your story in a completely different way. Even if you never share it with anyone (we'll be doing a reveal on mine soon), it will definitely help you visualize elements of your story and characters in a new media.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

December MYSTERY AGENT lottery! (Only open for a few days!)

UPDATE: Rafflecopter is being a little funny. If you aren't able to complete all fields, don't stress. We will contact you when the contest closes and get whatever info that didn't come through. 

We have another Mystery Agent our lottery form is now LIVE!

When can you enter?

Right now! The lottery will be open FOR ONLY FOUR (and a half) DAYS! So you better enter ASAP

What is our December Mystery Agent seeking?

Our MA represent YA and MG only. Our MA really loves fantasy with great world building, sci fi with a lot of action and contemporary with a compelling voice.

If you have a completed manuscript in one of these categories/genres, please enter all required info into the Rafflecopter below.

Please enter only once and only if your manuscript is finished and query-ready.

What should you include in your rafflecopter entry?

Email Adress
Query Letter
First Page
Critique Forum Preference - Please indicate if you'd like your entry to be included in the critique forum. If you do not respond to this option, we will assume you want to be included in forum.

We have had entrants prefer to be listed under pen names. If you'd rather we use a pen name when posting winner's names, info, entries, etc, please indicate this.

The lottery will close Wednesday, November 26th at 11:59 pm CDT. Lottery winners will be posted here on the blog on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 27th.

30 lucky entrants will be selected. Those opting in for the critique forum will have their entries posted for cheerleading and constructive feedback.

For the prize: 5 entrants selected by our Mystery Agent, will receive a critique on their query and first page. And if our MA loves your submission, you never know. Maybe our MA will request even more!

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.

And don't forget to look under this post. Angie has another new post today as well!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The last few months I've been working on a book just for me. A project based on the research that went into my novel, Amarok. I wanted to create a guide book where all of my research would be contained in one small volume.

One major problem I encountered was trying to figure out how to organize the guide book. I'm not the best organizer. Anyone that has seen my office, desk or sock drawer would agree. But with the help of friends, I was able to organize it by charcters, animal totems, customs, herbs and all things magical. I also struggled with the idea of publishing this guide book. It was something I had made for my own use--something personal--but the more I read it, the more I loved it and wanted to share it with my readers. I did not publish a kindle version because I love the feel of this artsy project it in my hands--the soft matte cover and the purple-blue colors (plus all the images would have been a nightmare to format.) Thankfully, I had a lot of help from Toni Kerr. She made my fantastic cover and interior.

I encourage everyone to make a guide book of their research. It is a fun and rewarding project!

To learn more about my upcoming motion picture based my my novel, The Forlorned--please visit my website.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Beauty of Rhythm and Repetition

My favorite authors all use rhythm and repetition to draw me into their stories' realities. A great example was found this morning while I read Charlotte's Web with my five-year-old:

"The next day was rainy and dark. Rain fell on the roof of the barn and dripped steadily from the eaves. Rain fell in the barnyard and ran in crooked courses down into the lane where thistles and pigweed grew. Rain spattered against Mrs. Zuckerman's kitchen windows and came gushing out of the downspouts. Rain fell on the backs of the sheep as they grazed in the meadow. When the sheep tired of standing in the rain, they walked slowly up the lane and into the fold.
Rain upset Wilbur's plans." (p 25)

The poetry of this prose impressed me. As a freelance copy editor, I am often pointing out frequently used words to prevent overuse. It's worth exploring the cases in which repetition is warranted and even beautiful.

1. In dialogue, when someone is experiencing an overwhelming emotion. "Oh no, oh no, oh no."


2. When you want to evoke a certain emotion. "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'"

Repetition of words in The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
3. When the mood or content requires rhythm. "We danced until the sun sank. We danced like strangers, holding new love in aching arms. We danced like we hadn't danced in over a decade, a decade of wasted wandering, when we danced with true strangers, and felt nothing. We danced until nothing else mattered but the tangible beating of two hearts, until neither of us remembered the last, empty decade at all."

The Singing Butler by Jack Vettriano
Read more about writing with rhythm from author Jami Gold.