Monday, September 29, 2014

Exclusive: Full Jacket Reveal for Crow's Rest!

In another milestone on Crow's Rest's journey to becoming a real book, we now have a full cover for it and I get to reveal it here on Operation Awesome today!

It's been really interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at how specific the dimensions need to be for a cover. We started with just the front cover, which is often all you need for an ebook. But since this will also be in paperback (and possibly hardcover, if Spencer Hill Press likes the pre-order numbers) we needed a full jacket.

The artist/designer must meet an entire sheet of specifications, leaving an area for the bar code and other "business" type items, as well as being careful to allow enough room on the spine as the page count fluctuates. I originally wanted a picture of the local landmark that inspires the setting of Crow's Rest on the back cover, but I stumbled on another piece of art by the same artist as the background of the front cover art and knew it would be perfect.

Kelley York of X-Potion Design worked her magic on it once again. I love it! It's so lush, and by pure luck it has elements that tie into the book so well: the spiders and webs, the daisies growing in the grass, the watchful raven...

Oh, what's that? You want to see it, you say? Okay, enough stalling (click on it for a larger view)

I was joking with one of our Operation Awesome alumni, Wes Chu, the other day that I want to get this cover printed on a blanket and just wrap myself up in it--but I'm afraid that crosses the line into Crazy Author territory. But maybe it's just a perfectly natural love between an author and her cover?

You can add it on Goodreads here or pre-order it on Amazon here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Happy Endings

I recently read I book I both enjoyed and admired a great deal, right up until the beautiful, satisfying, tragic end. Since it was a fiction based on actual people, I was compelled to read more about them, and that's when I learned that the love story between the real-life characters did not end in death, but marriage. So why didn't the book end that way?

Of course, some genres have a required format to their endings. A mystery must be solved. A romance must end happily. Commercial and literary fiction are more open as far as genre convention, and often that means the ending is more open as well. But in the book I read, the author avoided the romance-genre happy ending in order to conform to a literary-fiction convention of a tragic or bittersweet ending. In this case, it's a greater compromise to truth.

I like a happy ending. A tragic one can be satisfying and right, but even better is a satisfying, right ending where the characters have gotten what they worked for and feel hope, not regret. I don't believe tragedy is more literary than comedy. A well-written and plotted happy ending isn't less realistic. It's all a matter of when you end the story.

A wedding is often the end of a book, but it's the beginning of a marriage. We know that real marriages are not happy-ever-after. They are partnerships, negotiations, and hopefully happy-most-of-the-time. So if you end the book at a declaration of love, it's a happy ending. If you end it when the couple has suffered a grievous loss and isn't sure whether they can go on, it's sad. If you end it when they overcome the loss, happy again.

Life goes on after happy endings. It goes on after tragic ones. But usually I prefer my books to end at the happy moments. It makes the living part easier to manage.

About Kell Andrews:  Kell Andrews writes picture books and middle grade novels. Deadwood, her middle-grade contemporary fantasy about a cursed tree, is out now from Spencer Hill Middle Grade.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Beginning at the End

I just read a life-changing novel. It was written in the flapper era as historical fiction from the Civil War era. It covers the 80 some-odd years of Abbie MacKenzie Deal as she dreams, then dreams of dreaming, then passes those dreams onto her children for an inheritance. She even lives to see the wealthy, ungrateful grandchildren who think her life story is quaint and her work ethic, antique. The writing is amazing, of course, as one would expect from someone named Bess Streeter Aldrich. Everything about this book screams "quaint pioneer book."

On goodreads
So why did I call it life-changing? I guess I'd have to say it was more of a paradigm shift than an actual lifestyle change that it inspired. If you want to experience the paradigm shift yourself, you have to read the book! Today I want to talk about one particular technical aspect of the book that sets it apart.

It didn't start at the beginning. It didn't start in medias res. It started at THE END.

I picked it up and immediately read how Abbie MacKenzie Deal (spoiler right in chapter one as to whom she'll marry) was found dead in her quaint country house, and how all her well-to-do, sophisticated children hurried home in fancy cars and limousines to mourn that she died alone after all she'd done for them.


Except that the author had a story to tell, and she wanted us to know certain things about Abbie right off the bat, things we couldn't learn from young Abbie MacKenzie, the Scottish-Irish migrant who dreamed of singing on a stage. Incredibly, to me at least, this knowing the end from the beginning didn't make the story any less impacting. Indeed, the last pages of the book made those first pages more deeply meaningful. How was this accomplished?

First, what we see in the beginning isn't altogether shocking. We know that death for a woman in her eighties is not exactly a twist ending. And her attendance by children who have done well for themselves and become high-functioning members of society is in itself only vaguely interesting. We feel compelled to continue the story, if only to learn why it is that Abbie MacKenzie Deal warrants an entire book. What happened in her life that is so spectacular a book had to be written about it? (Hint: the author has written a great preface about this, as well.)

As we continue reading, we learn that Abbie wasn't always an old woman with fretful, high-society children. She was once a child with dreams of her own--some dreams that came true, and some, which once seemed very important, that never came to fruition. Against the backdrop of the election of Abraham Lincoln (her future father-in-law's odd friend), the Civil War, the martyrdom of President Lincoln, dust, famine, pestilence, and death, Abbie MacKenzie grows up. The choices she makes, the constant ticking of the infernal clock of Time that cannot be stayed, and the tragedy she must face again and again in the deaths of loved ones keep the story as fluid and dynamic as the creek running by her house.

In the last pages, we begin to see signposts, landmarks that remind us we are close to the end... or the beginning, as it were. The entire story becomes a beautiful circle, circumscribing the life of Abbie and all the lives that were touched by hers.

Would I start a story this way, with the main character being found dead? Probably not. I don't think I have the skill to pull it off, much less to make that death somehow beautiful and meaningful in a story that challenges the prejudices of present and future generations. But Bess Streeter Aldrich did it. And I'm an improved person because of it.

Happy Weekend Reading! Read something life-enriching!

October MA Lottery Winners!!

Here are the names of all the qualifying lotto winners, listed in no particular order. Please Note: If you submitted a "Writing As" name, that is the name listed here.

Terry Hunt
Tanya Sarlanis
Ty Linn
Sherri Ogden
Heather Raglin
Julie Artz
G.L. Cronin
Carol Foote
Anne Marie Worthington
TL Sumner
Elizabeth Penney
Colleen Bennett
Carissa Taylor
Laurie Dennison
Patti Richards
Leandra Wallace
Katherine Manning
S.L. Bynum
Kathleen Allen
E.K. Muyskens
G.K. Bryne
J. Redman
Debra Daugherty
Denise Drespling
J.C. Davis
Megan Cooley Peterson
Meradeth Houston Snow
Molly Shaffer
Missy Shelton Belote
Dawn Allen
Natasha Hanova
Laurie E.B. Lucking
Peggy Rothschild
Laurie Hager Litwin
JEN Garrett

Please email your 140 character Twitter pitch and the first 250 words of your manuscript to us at operationawesome6 (at) gmail (dot) com. Use the subject heading October MA Entry.

Be sure to check back October 1st for the critique forum. All entries from winners who opted to participate will be posted for cheerleading and feedback.

Congrats to all our entrants!! And be sure to check back for info on our November MA contest. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Cult of Book Marketing

I've been reading Kristen Lamb's book, Rise of the Machines this week. And it's given me a lot to think about. If you haven't heard of Kristen Lamb, she's a very vocal supporter of indie publishing and the creator of something called WANAtribe, which is a place for writers to commune and offer each other support. You can read about Kristen and WANA (which stands for We Are Not Alone) through the links above -- and I recommend you do -- she's very wise!

Anyway, Lamb's book has a lot to say about the way social media fits into the marketing plans of every writer, indie or traditional. It's been a little bit eye-opening to me, because she's rather plainly stating that everything I've been doing is wrong. The only comfort here is that I know I'm not alone. I learned how to use social media from other writers, and basically copied what they were doing.

The biggest issue Lamb brings up -- and one I've wondered about a lot -- is that writers using Facebook and Twitter seem mostly to be targeting other writers. In some ways this is good marketing if you ask me. After all, I don't know any other writers who aren't voracious readers. I go through several books a week, even when I'm on deadline, and I'd guess I'm not alone. But I've also been aware all along that my small community of writer friends -- no matter how much they'd love to help me -- cannot make me a NYT bestseller all by themselves. I need those elusive "regular folks" to read my books, too. And talk about them. But I don't really market to them, unless they stumble across my very writer-focused blog or FB page.

I've attended lots of FB launch parties for fellow authors, and helped host a couple myself. And the folks who comment a lot and end up winning the giveaways? Other authors. I'm part of plenty of author groups and have an entirely separate author persona, to keep my writing segmented from my "real" life.

And Lamb is making me see that this might not have been the best path. Part of the segregation between my "real" identity and my pen name is due to the type of work that I do in the "real" world. But I'm starting to see that maybe inviting my "real" friends into my writing world would be the best way to share the thing that has been most important in my life (besides those little mini mes that wander around my home shrieking). I wouldn't "market" to these folks, exactly...that feels quite wrong. But maybe NOT giving them the opportunity to support my writing is wrong, too.

I'm not going to post any spoilers from Lamb's book or tell you how she proposes that we move past our limited view of author-to-author social media marketing to connect with "real" people... mostly because I haven't gotten that far in the book yet. But she's setting the stage and preparing me for the big reveal... I'm about halfway through the book, and the woman has thoroughly built the case for why everything I'm doing is spectacularly unsuccessful. So at this point I'm invested and really REALLY hoping that the book can deliver on the promise that it's making. But even if it doesn't manage to do that (has anyone completed it? Does it???), it's well written and has inspired plenty of thought.

So my questions to you guys:
- have you felt trapped in this cult of author-to-author marketing, too?
- what have you done to break out and reach "real" people?
- do you keep your writing life segregated from your "real" life? If so, why?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014



Like the title of this post? It's a scream of joy! I just can't help it. FINALLY today I can say my YA fantasy novel, THE EMISSARY, is out in the world.

It's taken me YEARS and many trials and agents and editors and publishers and rewrites and stubborn resolve for this to happen. I don't have words for what I'm feeling. Instead, I'll give you the facts of what is going on with my book.

Firstly, here is the cover.

You can order it on AMAZON HERE.

You can add it to your goodreads list HERE.

If you have a nook, order HERE

A FREE GIVEAWAY on Goodreads is happening HERE.

My blog tour, hosted by Chapter by Chapter, started yesterday. Learn more about my book and my journey by following the tour. The list of tour sites are HERE

Please, read my book. It's been wanting to be seen for oh so long.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lemonade from Lemons: Filling the creative well during rough periods

I really liked Abby's recent post, Evolution of a Snowman, because it gibes with how I've been feeling lately too. She's right in that it can be easy to feel negative when things get a little rougher than usual. And it's especially daunting when real life stuff gets in the way of creativity and writing.

With everything going on, I neglected my other blog, The Writer Librarian, until last week, when I posted this writing contest. Entries so far? 0. The problem, I think, was not only the long radio silence on my end, but also the time constraints resulting in a lack of publicity--I even forgot to put a Twitter post about it, which is my usual go-to for that sort of thing.

This has taught me that even when I don't get as much writing/editing/creative time that I like, every experience adds to my creative pool, whether I realize it or not. And not only can I tap into it later, it helps me grow, both as a writer, and as a person.

An even better example was a slightly bizarre library question I got through chat the other day. I didn't save the transcript, but the basic gist was this:

Library User: Hi, I'm looking for leadership skills used by domestic violence perpetrators.

Me (significant pause): You mean leadership skills used by domestic violence victims?

Library User: No, not victims. Perpetrators.

Me (incredulous): You mean abusers?

Library User: Sure, that will work.

Some time later after some significant searching and head scratching...

Me (unable to hide snark): Uhrm, I'm not finding anything. Do perpetrators actually have meetings now? I'm not familiar with your field.

Library User: It must not be that common. If you can find it, I'm also interested in the tools perpetrators might bring to meetings.

What I didn't say: What, like knives?

Me (what I said instead): The only articles I'm finding are ones that discuss leadership skills used by social workers and counselors. Is that what you're looking for?

Special Library User: Hmm. I guess that will work--I'm a social work major.

It's obvious my user thought "perpetrator" meant "counselor," and my only regret is that I didn't see the interaction with their instructor when they figured this out. Luckily, this will be going into my ever-growing file of weird library stories, and even though it was a challenge to deal with, it's something I can utilize later on.

So for those battling rougher terrain than usual (there seem to be a lot of us lately!) take heart. It's not all lemons, and you can use these things to your advantage later, whether in writing, or in life. So kick your feet up, drink that lemonade, and enjoy.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reasons for Requesting: Character Interests

So you've got this concept, right? And an idea of what kind of character you need at the helm. You've developed their personality and dialogue and fears, so you've got a pretty well developed character on your hands. But there is a vital ingredient that your character will be lost without: Interests.

Yes interests. We all have them. Our hobbies and activities that make our hearts sing. And, especially for YA and Middle Grade, these things are important. I mean all of us were probably in some kind of club at one point or another. Band, theater, sports, art, underwater basket weaving... there are lots of things out there to be interested in.

But many times when I read an MS the character doesn't seem to... like anything. They make a big deal over the things they hate and don't get but not what they love. I think often times that's a trap authors fall into, especially in fantasy. They make the character's life flat and boring until the adventure starts and THEN the MC's life begins. But it feels cheap. Like the character has existed in a bubble until the story comes along.

How do you solve this? Give your MC goals and interests. Give them a path in life that they would have gone on if not for their adventures. And for bonus points, work their talents and interest somewhere into the plot. If they are adept at underwater basket weaving, maybe add a scene where the only way to beat the villain is to weave a basket-like prison underwater. Obviously an exaggeration, but it makes the character feel more real and three dimensional.

Ron was good at chess. It came in handy. Hermione was good at all of her classes and that comes in handy. In an MS I read recently, the MC used her talents and passions to solve the situation. Give them interests and make them count and its a good way to earn a request.

Bonus tip: if the only thing the character is ever passionate about is the love interest, you're doing something wrong. The character's whole life is not tied to the love interest. Even though 'interest' is in the title, it doesn't count as one. I have read books where that has happened.

That's all for today. Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Evolution of a Snowman

I've thought a lot about what to post today and tried to come up with some awesome writing post, but it's been a rough week. Not only was it the busiest and most stressful payroll in the history of all payrolls (I'm only sort of exaggerating here), but we found out some extremely disappointing news yesterday. So all I can come up with are negative things to write about, like how much waiting sucks, especially to have everything fall apart in the end over something totally stupid and completely out of my control, and how I really wish I could just hide from the world and write for a solid month, because it feels like I haven't written anything in forever, and how I need more hours in the day, and . . . yeah. So much negativity.

So I need some fluff. And this is one of my favorites. :)

Our family moved from Arizona to Idaho at the beginning of 2010. My kids hadn't had a lot of experience with snow at that point. As a result, they hadn't built many snowmen.

We'd come up in 2006 to visit family and that was my kids' first real experience with snow. This is their first snowman:

It wasn't really their fault this one turned out so sad since the snow didn't want to stick together, but still, he looked like he was already melting. Poor thing.

When we moved here, I thought the kids would be all excited to get out there and make some awesome snowmen, but apparently, it's cold outside when it snows, so they resisted. Then we had the great blizzard of Nov 2010 (not as blizzardy as they made it sound like it would be) and since we were on break, the kids finally attempted another snowman.

They worked on it for quite a while, so I thought for sure this one was going to be huge. I promised not to look until they were done. My patience was rewarded with this:

Not bad, though it looked more like a cake than a snowman. I'm sorry, snowwoman. And my daughter wasn't very happy with me when I started laughing. But it was so not what I was expecting and sometimes, the laughter just can't be controlled.

So when the response to snowman #1 was less than satisfactory, they set out the next day to make another one. This was the result:

And so begins the tale of the girlfriend snowwoman and the boyfriend snowman, as told by my 11-year-old daughter. The boyfriend (on the left) had to go out for some reason in a terrible snowstorm. It was so bad it buried him up to his neck. His girlfriend went looking for him and when she found him, she ran in circles, waving her hands around, screaming, "Help! Help!" And when no one came to help, she made a sign. And she lost her scarf.

Rough day.

As far as I know, the only help they got was our Great Dane eating their noses. Apparently, he likes carrots.

Maybe, if I'm lucky, this winter I can convince them to create some awesome Calvin and Hobbes style snowmen. :)

Friday, September 19, 2014

The October Mystery Agent contest is coming! Is your first 250 ready?

TGIF, Operation Awesome! In case you missed it, our October Mystery Agent lottery is open until next Thursday, September 25th. Our awesome MA is seeking MG, YA (any & all genres!), women's fiction, historical fiction, and romance (historical, contemporary, and new adult).

Our MA will be considering not only your Twitter-length pitches, but also the first 250 words of your manuscript, as well. When I was a querying writer, those contests were my favorite - a pitch could go either way, but when actual pages entered the equation, I knew that my entry would truly represent my manuscript, for better or worse.

So what makes a strong opening? Well... unfortunately, that is as subjective as the rest of this process. One reader may find your opening slow or confusing, and another may be hooked from the word 'go.'

But no matter what kind of opening I'm reading, there's one thing I can't go without: grounding. Sometimes, in an effort to avoid the dreaded infodump, the writer will catapult the readers into a dynamic, dramatic scene, hoping to grab their attention that way. And some writers can pull off an in media res opening beautifully! But without grounding - an idea of who these people are, and the rules of the world they live in - the stakes just aren't there for me.

If I don't know the main character yet, I'm just not going to be invested in their success. But that doesn't mean I have to understand absolutely everything within that first page! It really only takes a few well-placed, specific details to get readers interested in what you have to offer. A hook doesn't have to be an explosion. It can be an intriguing setting, a relationship dynamic, or just a character I instantly like. That's what will keep me begging for the next page.

What do you look for in an opening?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

October Mystery Agent Lottery!

We have another Mystery Agent contest coming up in just a few weeks and 
our lottery form is now LIVE!

When can you enter?

Right now! The lottery will be open until Sept 25th.

What should you include in your rafflecopter entry? 

Word Count
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.
Contact Info - leave your email or Twitter @name so we can contact you if necessary.
Writing as - 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.

Please note: Your pitches will not be entered on the rafflecopter. If you are selected, you will then email us your pitches.

Our MA has requested twitter pitches (140 characters) and the first 250 words of your completed manuscript, so get them ready!

What is our October Mystery Agent seeking?

Our MA is currently looking for: MG, YA (any & all genres!), women's fiction, historical fiction, and romance (historical, contemporary, and new adult).

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.

The lottery will close Thursday, September 25th at 11:59 pm EDT. Lottery winners will be posted here on the blog on Friday, September 26th. 50 lucky entrants will be selected. Those opting in for the critique forum will have their entries posted for cheerleading and constructive feedback.

And last but certainly not least, the reveal, along with the to-be-announced prizes, will be posted here sometime in the month of October.

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

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Love: 10 Books That Have Have Never Left You

I read a post by Brian Klems on Writer's Digest about the 10 books that have never left you. So, as my brain tends to do, I got to thinking about what books have had an impact on me? Which books do I return to again and again? 

My list is eclectic. Some are new, some are classics, and one is on the list because it is fun (and constantly read by my niecelets and nephew). Here's the list: 

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
3. Before I Die - Jenny Downham
4. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
5. Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
6. A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
7. Painted Faces - L.H. Cosway
8. The Giver - Lois Lowry
9. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
10. The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

How about you? Which books have had an impact on you? 

And, in case you missed it yesterday, you can check out our fantastic September Mystery Agent reveal (and winners) here

Happy Wednesday! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mystery Agent Reveal and Winners!

Thanks to all who entered and gave feedback! Our September Mystery Agent is . . .

Rachel Brooks of L. Perkins Agency!

She has chosen two winners:




We will be contacting the winners shortly with submission information. Congratulations!

Want to get to know our Mystery Agent better? We've asked her a few questions!

Any exciting news to share?

I recently participated in #PitMad and have a bunch of amazing stories in my inbox as a result. Plus, it’s always exciting to see writers supporting one another online.

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

I’m receiving a lot of pitches that are extremely above or below their genre’s typical word count. It’s important to know or research the ballpark word count range for your genre. While there are always exceptions, generally you should aim for that range.
I also repeatedly see a simple mistake—not including sample pages with the query! Querying is a thrilling (and stressful) process, but don’t get in such a rush that you hurt your chances by forgetting something so crucial.

What books have you read lately that you’ve fallen in love with (manuscripts you’re currently working with or others’)?

I recently started reading a contemporary romance manuscript from my inbox that I think I’m falling head over heels for. As far as already published books, I’m reading Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead. She’s amazing, as usual!

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

I’m seeing a lot of variety in my slush pile— new adult, picture books, and everything in between. Some queries I’m seeing aren’t for genres I’m currently seeking, like political thrillers or memoirs, but then other pitches are right up my alley, like fresh YA stories. I’m on the hunt for adult romances at the moment, including erotic romance.

And a few just for fun:

Coffee or tea? Neither. I’m a soda gal all the way!

Sea or mountains? Definitely sea. I used to be surrounded by water and dearly miss it now that I’m landlocked.

Chocolate or bacon? Dark chocolate.

Ebook or print book? Both! I’m happy it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation in today’s industry.

Favorite TV show? Ouch, only one? Well BBC’s Sherlock definitely makes my list of top five favorite current shows.

Thanks to our awesome Mystery Agent for her time! To learn more about Ms. Brooks and her list, check her out on Twitter and on the agents page on the L. Perkins Agency website

Stay tuned for more Mystery Agent news very soon!

Monday, September 15, 2014

To Pre Or Not to Pre

 (That's William Shakespeare threatening to dagger me [in the nicest way possible] if I ever use that To Pre Or Not to Pre joke again)

A few weeks ago, my book Crow's Rest showed up on Amazon as available to pre-order in paperback, and of course I had to tell everybody about it. But once the squealing was done, all kinds of questions about what pre-ordering does (and does not) mean for the book and author came up.

Firstly, I had to explain to a few less-publishing-savvy friends that pre-ordering it now means that they still won't get the book until it comes out in May 2015. So the inevitable followup question became "what are the advantages of pre-ordering it then?"

I had some vague recollection of being told publishers use those pre-order numbers for things, but I didn't really have a concrete answer to that question (still learning so much about the actual publishing process!). So I asked around among my fellow Fearless Fifteeners, and got the emphatic answer that yes, pre-orders are crucial for any book! Those numbers are used to:

  • determine whether the publisher may be interested in your next book
  • determine how large that initial print run should be (and possibly whether they should also print a hardcover version)
  • to gauge how much buzz the book is getting, and therefore whether it merits some extra swag or promotional budgeting

The exact explanation from my publicist, Jennifer Allis Provost, on that last point was:

Basically, once you've landed a publishing contract you've convinced someone to invest months (sometimes years) and thousands of dollar in your work, with no guarantee that you will sell a single blessed copy. Yep, that's why it's so hard to make it past the submissions stage; since publishers don't have crystal balls, they have no idea what will take off and what will tank.

What changes their mind? Pre-orders.

Let's say you're a debut novelist, and the publisher has assigned you a publicist, done some marketing, and whatever else is involved in their standard package. You know who the publishers go "above and beyond" for? The titles with hundreds or even thousands of pre-orders. Those pre-orders tell the publisher that the author is willing to do her part to get the word out, and do everything she can to make that title a bestseller.

So as a reader, all that pre-ordering does is reserve a copy for you, and to make sure you get it close to the release date.

But for the author, that pre-order is a really great thing to have on their side! Having a better understanding of how this works has prompted me to go through my Goodreads Want to Read list and actually follow through with pre-orders on the titles I'm really excited about.

Feel free to share some titles you're excited for, that you've pre-ordered, in the comments!

P.S.  I was tempted (and basically dared by Jessica L. Brooks) to add a "The More You Know" gif to this post, but, copyright

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Writing screenplays that sell is a lot like writing novels.  You must really love your story and feel compelled to share it. This drive will carry you through the process.  Ask yourself--What do I really love to write about? For me it was lighthouses.  I love how lighthouses are a symbol of hope, of light and shelter. A few years ago I wrote a novel about a lighthouse entitled, Fears of a Fisherman. This month I found out that my lighthouse novel, will be made into a film in 2015. I really believe it was my love of  lighthouses that made this dream possible.  
In addition to being passionate about your subject matter, you must also really know your characters. Make sure you have conflict and have your hero make solid choices. 
It is so important to show growth in your characters as well.  Have your antagonist attack and or damage your characters in the most personal of ways--this will make your audience become emotionally invested in your hero. 
Think outside the box. Be a rebel. Write about what moves you. What you love!  
Happy writing everyone!
Have a cool novel cover? send me a link by posting in the comments below! 
Check out my new Cover for my novel River of Bones.
Be sure to share yours as well!  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Clean Slate

I'm blogging late today because it took all day to clean my house. Four loads of laundry, an heirloom piano that hadn't been dusted for an embarrassing duration, and carpets that needed some serious love.

Cleaning my house was like revising my novels. I didn't think it could be done, but I knew it HAD to be done. I started with one corner of the house: decluttered the papers, toys, and half-eaten apples (I have four boys). Then I moved on to the next task: thoroughly dusting the scrolly nooks and crannies of my hundred-year-old piano. It's so old the cherry wood has gone black everywhere except the untouched inside. I had to dust quietly, which is no fun with a piano, because my babiest one was sleeping down the hall. If you've ever picked up a dusty old manuscript and tried to revise to your modern tastes, you have an inkling how I felt tackling this job.

The kitchen is the kitchen. It gets cleaned more often than anything else, even the bathroom, so that was easy... sort of like dropping my guilty pleasure adverbs from the first five chapters of my book.

Then there's the carpet. It's my least favorite to clean because it bears the brunt of everything, all the daily traffic of six people (maybe minus the baby who isn't crawling yet), and it weaves throughout the house. It's foundational. It's essential. And it was filthy. We live in the red dust of southern Utah right next to a city called Hurricane for its gale-force winds. My carpet is white. We just bought a Kirby in hopes of domesticating this over-sized rug. Imagine you reread your manuscript and realized it didn't just need the omission of a few badly placed adverbs or flowery adjectives. Imagine you looked at the whole house that you'd spent so many countless hours designing and organizing, and realized with horror that the very fabric that held up all your furniture needed a deep clean. I've got a couple manuscripts like that, which I probably won't be tackling any time soon. "Back to the drawing board," are five words I hate to hear myself mutter.

But if you're brave, maybe you'll tackle that white carpet turned mud-red rug (say that five times fast), and your book will end up as incredible as my house looks right now as I sit typing. Yay! It's a peaceful feeling when you've done the work and made something--book, house, yard, garden--just shine.

Don't look at this picture too closely. We're going for Most Improved.

Happy writing this weekend! And if you must, happy revising!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Blog Tour! Lisa Amowitz's VISION - and a giveaway!

Visit Rock Star Book Tours

My dear friend, the amazingly talented author/graphic designer/illustrator/book cover goddess Lisa Amowitz has a brand new book out and it's FABULOUS! Here are the deets:

About the Book
Author: Lisa Amowitz
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Pub. Date: September 9, 2014

The light is darker than you think… High school student Bobby Pendell already has his hands full—he works almost every night to support his disabled-vet father and gifted little brother. Then he meets the beautiful new girl in town, who just happens to be his boss’s daughter. Bobby has rules about that kind of thing. Nothing matters more than keeping his job.

When Bobby starts to get blinding migraines that come with scary, violent hallucinations, his livelihood is on the line. Soon, he must face the stunning possibility that the visions of murder are actually real. With his world going dark, Bobby is set on the trail of the serial killer terrorizing his small town. With everyone else convinced he’s the prime suspect, Bobby realizes that he, or the girl he loves, might be killer's next victim.

About Lisa:

Lisa Amowitz was born in Queens and raised in the wilds of Long Island, New York where she climbed trees, thought small creatures lived under rocks and studied ant hills. And drew. A lot.

Lisa has been a professor of graphic design at Bronx Community College where she has been tormenting and cajoling students for nearly eighteen years. She started writing eight years ago because she wanted something to illustrate, but somehow, instead ended up writing YA. Probably because her mind is too dark and twisted for small children.

BREAKING GLASS which was released July 9, 2013 from Spencer Hill Press, is her first published work. VISION, the first of the Finder series will be released in 2014 along with an unnamed sequel in the following year. LIFE AND BETH will also be released in the near future. So stay tuned because Lisa is very hyper and has to create stuff to stay alive.

To contact Lisa try:  
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  | PinterestGoodreads 

My thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book. It's chilling enough that I would have liked to only read it during the day but it was one of those "I can't put it down" books so I ended up reading into the night just to finish it. And then spent the next several weeks looking over my shoulder. The characters are the kind that stay with you long after you've finished the book, and not just the main character, but the side characters as well. Bobby's visions are truly horrifying, as are the consequences of those visions. The story kept me hooked and guessing and sad that the story ended (I'm hoping for a sequel!!). If you like murder and mystery and an amazing male main character, you definitely need to read this one. I highly recommend!


Lisa is giving away 2 Signed copies of Vision and swag for 2 winners US ONLY.

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Tour Schedule
Week One:
9/1/2014- Word to DreamsInterview
9/1/2014- Books Complete MeReview
9/2/2014- Suzy Turner, YA AuthorGuest Post
9/2/2014- Her Book Thoughts!Review
9/3/2014- Mom With A KindleInterview
9/3/2014- The Bookie MonsterReview
9/4/2014- One Guy's Guide to Good ReadsGuest Post
9/4/2014- Reader GirlsReview
9/5/2014- Realm of the Sapphired DragonInterview
9/5/2014- Amaterasu ReadsReview

Week Two:
9/8/2014- The YA Lit ChickGuest Post
9/8/2014- Buried Under BooksReview
9/9/2014- Anonymous Interests - Interview
9/9/2014- In Between The Lines - Review
9/10/2014- Curling Up With A Good BookGuest Post
9/10/2014- Dalene's Book ReviewsReview
9/11/2014- Avid Reader MusingsInterview
9/11/2014- Operation AwesomeReview
9/12/2014- kellyvisionGuest Post

9/12/2014- Reese's Reviews- Review

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Plot holes and a simple suggestion

These are my sweat pants. They're falling apart. (I folded one leg over so you could see the back, too.)

I didn't realize how full of holes my pants were until I was getting ready to fold them recently, and saw them lying on the bed. 

Whoa, I thought. Those are practically goners. 

It made me sad.

It also reminded me of my current WIP. With OTH releasing on Monday, I've been working on Flora stuff for months now. With the Flora things being officially out of my hands for a while (whew), I've been able to go back to Cozenage 2. 

It's like seeing the storyline for the very first time. Tons of issues are jumping out at me, demanding my attention. I love it.

A lot of times, we writers spend so much time getting comfortable with our works-in-progress, it's easy to get to a point where plot/character holes are completely missed. The stories or specific aspects of them might be falling apart at the seams, but because we've been buried so deep in everything and know how the WIP is *supposed* to be, we don't even see this.

There are varying pieces of advice on how to fix this (CPs, betas, et cetera), but I've personally come to learn that taking a few months (yes, months--not weeks) away from a project that might *feel* like it's done is really the best. I know that seems like a long time when you're chomping at the bit to get it finished and move on to another project, but believe me, it's worth it. You'll be looking at your work with a pair of fresh eyes and only will plot holes stand out, but it'll also be easier to come up with solutions when you're not burnt out on the storyline.

I like what Neil Gaiman says:

The best advice I can give on this is, once it's done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you're ready, pick it up and read it, as if you've never read it before. If there are things you aren't satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that's revision.

How about you? Do you agree with this? If so, how long do you step away from WIP (or finished draft) before diving back in again? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

How All Work and No Play Kills a Manuscript

I'll admit, I've struggled with what to blog about this week. I was going to one about editing, but realized I'd already done that. I was going to post about creative inspiration from my Hawaii trip, but Aimee already did such a good job of that with Alaska that mine seemed redundant in comparison.

But perhaps I can do both--with what I learned in Hawaii during the limited hours I dared to hand-edit the last chapter I'd hacked to bits. It fell completely flat, and made my character a distant carbon copy of herself.

I'd been working on it too hard to notice. Unwilling to take breaks for fear I'd never get the revisions done.

It took getting me out of my routine, and putting me in a setting with lots of ocean, rainbows, and a touch of yoga to knock some sense back into me. Give me the perspective I needed.

And I realized the reason my scene fell flat is because my character literally had a gun in her pocket--and wasn't using it. In this scene, she needed to do a lot more than just sit there.

So when I got back home, I re-wrote the scene, splicing it together in the sequence it was meant to go, and had her hold that gun to someone's head, for goodness sake. I don't know if I'll keep it as is, but for now, it's enough to move forward with the rest of my revisions.

Another thing the time and space in Hawaii gave me was the realization that fun is not only a necessary part of writing (and living) but it has to be a priority. Even if I have to manually write it out on my to-do list. Staring at the Pacific Ocean, with its waves rolling in, reminded me that there is a whole lot more to life than being hyperfocused on work. And that being too driven actually hurts more than it helps.

So, instead of feeling guilty for the week I spent barely writing or revising, I feel blessed that it allowed me the space I needed. And if that doesn't help me remember not to work myself to death, perhaps these pictures will:

So what is your limit? What are some signs that tell you you've been working too hard?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reasons for Requesting: Setting

As mentioned the last time I posted, I went to Alaska this summer on a cruise with my family. It was truly a beautiful, breathtaking landscape. The kind that gets you inspired to write epic fantasy with huge, sweeping landscapes. Mostly because it almost doesn't seem real. Below are some pictures from the trip, including some sleepy sea lions :)

The weather was amazing to match the scenery. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. So it can be hard to make an image come to life with only a few paragraphs.

One of the great powers of writers is to make places that exist only in words come to life in the readers mind. Its a hard task and definitely one I struggle most with as a writer. Dialogue flows easily. Plot and characters? One of my strong suits. But imagery of any kind, particularly setting? I struggle big time with that.

So when a see a writer who can nail that setting? GIMME! The setting is as much a character as anyone else in your story. It should be a fully integrated element of the story. A most recent example I've come across of pitch perfect setting is  The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Spain is a huge part of the story and this book makes me want to visit.

In the end, that's really what your setting should do. Make us want to BE there. Make us want to hop onto the nearest train to Spain, Italy, Alaska or any number of fantastical locations. There are a lot of important elements that go into fleshing out a world, but setting is one of the most important.

Helpful tip for setting if you're bad at it like I am: Practice with describing places. It doesn't matter if its your local coffee shop or the glaciers of Alaska. Practice setting the scene to help it become more natural. And use all five senses when you do. Practice makes perfect right? And it might just land you an agent!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dierdra Eden's Knight of Light (The Watchers book 1) - and a Giveaway!!

We're excited to help Dierdra Eden celebrate the release of her new book, The Watchers Book 1: Knight of Light. Take a peek at her awesome book trailer and be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of her book and $100 Amazon gift card!!

The Watchers Book 1: Knight of Light

 In England, 1270 A.D., Auriella (pronounced yurr-ee-ella) flees her village after being accused of witchcraft. Pursued by nightmarish creatures, she struggles to accept the truth about her humanity. Filled with fairies, dwarves, pixies, dragons, demons, and monsters, Knight of Light is an enthralling tale that will capture the imaginations of readers young and old.

The Watchers Series has been described as Braveheart meets Supernatural. The mythology for the series is based on many theological texts from dozens of sects with correlating themes. Ancient writings include The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Traditional Apocrypha, The Pearl of Great Price, and The Kabbalah.

“The Watchers” are supernatural beings in human form whose duty it is to protect and guard mankind from the armies of darkness. Unfortunately, as the Book of Enoch mentions, some of these Watchers go bad. Although the mythology is based on these texts, Deirdra Eden’s The Watcher’s Series is written in a traditional fairytale style with a young girl’s discovery of incredible, but dangerous powers within herself, a cast of humorous side-kicks, a quest for greater self-discovery and purpose, and villains of epic proportions

About the Author

"My goal in writing is to saturate my books with intrigue, mystery, romance, and plot twists that will keep my readers in suspense. I want to see fingerprints on the front and back covers where readers have gripped the novel with white knuckles! Aside from writing, I enjoy jousting in arenas, planning invasions, horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, and going on adventures."
-Deirdra Eden

Find Deirdra Eden and The Watchers Series online on AmazonDeirdra's websiteFacebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Wattpad, and Pinterest.

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