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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Fond Farewell

Do you ever feel like you've got so many balls up in the air that one of them will surely come crashing on your head soon? Or worse, my greater fear--that one has already been dropped and you're so crazed that you haven't even noticed?

That's my life right now. There's been a lot going on, probably no more than anyone else's life. A sick parent, work responsibilities, deadlines and a rapidly approaching move (just in time for Xmas, yay!)... But I've been feeling less adept at juggling lately, and I'm finally figuring out that I need to cut away some commitments and focus on the things that are essential.

As a result, this is my final post at Operation Awesome, which certainly doesn't mean I won't be lurking in the shadows. After all, that's what I used to do!

I want to wish you all the best in your efforts, whether you're writing, knitting, baking, or just learning to breathe. Remember to be kind to yourself, and to others. You never know what other folks are going through, and when we get super busy it's easy to forget to ask.

I hope that you all have a peaceful and calm holiday season. Thanks for letting me be a little bit more awesome for a while!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Affirmation is my Albatross

We all know that writing is a long waiting game, whether you're yet to be agented or published, on submission, or awaiting reviews for your published work.

In these stages, it's common to look for sources of affirmation. I'm lucky to have a group of people who support me when things get challenging, but sometimes, affirmation becomes my albatross. I get so consumed with the external--what people think, and confirmation that I'm doing all right--that it's easy to get desperate when affirmation doesn't come my way.

Unfortunately, this makes me look a bit like John Cleese in the beginning of this Monty Python YouTube clip (language NSFW).

And here are some other reasons why having affirmation as my albatross is a bad idea (the fact that John Cleese has his around his neck is probably no accident):

1. I look desperate. ("Alllbaatrosss!")

2. It's extremely unsatisfying. ("I haven't got any choc ices, I just have this albatross.")

3. Sometimes I get defensive. ("Don't you oppress me, mate!")

3. And at the end of it, I'm still left with a gigantic bird that weighs down my psyche. ("Of course you don't get f*#king wafers with it!")

So here's what I'm going to try. I'm going to look within, and find what matters in my bones, no matter whether the affirmation comes or not. Namely, I'm going to ask myself the following:

1. What are five things I've accomplished?

2. What am I most proud of?

3. What do I value most?

4. What keeps me going when things get tough?

Often, when I answer these, I find I'm further along than I thought. Plus, it helps me keep focused on the writing itself (a great source of internal affirmation). With these tools, I'm optimistic that I can eventually drop my albatross for good.

So what about you? What is your albatross? In what ways does external affirmation (or conversely, disavowal) affect your writing life?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

NaNoWriMo Tips- Fresh Eyes

A little while ago, I talked about fast drafting and ways to power through a draft without second guessing yourself. One of my tips was turn your inner editor off.

Well, as I've discovered this NaNoWriMo, that advice is much better applied to completely new projects. When a project is fresh, its a lot easier to go crazy without checking back to make sure you're pacing it right or that your characters are likable. Though I always say outlining helps a lot with NaNoWriMo, no matter how much you outline, the story is still a surprise. You have nothing to compare it to yet. The editor in you won't really make an appearance until a few months later.

Not so with rewriting. This month, I decided to finally rewrite, from scratch, my first ever novel. This is my baby. The thing that, in effect, has been in progress since seventh grade. Yeah. That long. Seven years I guess. I didn't actually finish the first novel until I was fifteen, and ever since then I've been editing and rewriting and trying new things with it.

Well, this month I said, enough. I decided I would look on the story with fresh eyes and write it completely from scratch. But its hard to do that when the story is so close to your heart. You already know your characters and story so well, you judge every single word you write. Several times over this month, I've wanted to change things because I didn't feel like my characters were coming across in the right way. Four days into NaNoWriMo, I completely started over to change the point of view. Usually, starting over is a big no, no. And while I like the changes I'm making, writing them can be like wading through mud some days.

Long story short, I won't be using NaNoWriMo for a big redraft like this again. While I have powered through and I expect to hit 50,000 words today (thanks in part to a few 10,000 word sprints that have left me in a writing coma), its been a lot more of a struggle than usual. Next NaNoWriMo, I'm definitely going to start with a fresh concept.

So what is easiest for you to fast draft? Do certain genres work better for you when you speed write? And how is NaNo going for you so far?

Soldier on writers! You can hit that 50,000 words! And if you don't, that's okay too. At least you wrote something, and that is always a thing to be proud of.

Friday, November 14, 2014

NaNo and Slow Drafters

My name is Becky Mahoney, and I am a plotter.

I am a plotter to the extent that it makes drafting very, very slow. I like to get the wording very precise in my head before I lay it all out there. I didn't used to be this way, but I always say that learning how to revise properly kind of ruined me for drafting. Once I realized how good I could be, it was difficult to give myself permission to be terrible.

So having tried NaNoWriMo with very little success in the past, I always assumed it was just completely antithetical to the way I worked. Of course, I was always in the middle of a project when November rolled around, so I always tried to log 50k on that project with very little success. It's difficult enough to produce 50k in one month. But to produce 50k of good words? I'm sure it's been done, but I am nowhere near that amazing.

My participation this year was sort of a last-minute snap decision. All of my current projects were going slowly or stalling because I was stuck on the words, stuck on making them right in one go. I needed to stretch my drafting muscles. So I decided to do that with a completely blank slate. I chose a vague idea that had taken up residence in my brain over the last week of October, and I went for it with very little planning. Had I made this decision earlier, I might have made myself an outline ahead of time. But I dove in with only a few story beats mapped out in my head.

I am someone who, on a good day, is lucky to get to 500 words. 1000 is in the high end of my daily word count more often than not, and very rarely, I will write more, especially if I'm close to some watermark, like the end of a chapter (or the manuscript.) Today is November 14th, and I am sitting at 30,000 words.

They are, of course, not good words. Much of what I have is wheel-spinning, repeated conversations, clunky exposition, and loads and loads of telling. It is, in essence, a very long dry run for this project.

But I have a separate document going with all the ideas I'm having along the way: changes to the setting, various plot twists, logistical kinks to work out. I'm getting a chance to hash out voices and character dynamics without having to worry about hewing to my outline. And I'm getting a sense of just how much I can get done when I turn my internal editor off and just enjoy drafting.

I am a plotter. That much has not changed - actually, this experience has emphasized it for me. But NaNo is teaching me some excellent new tricks. And I look forward to using them.

I'll see you all at 50k!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Dysfunctional Process

I'm curious about other writers' writing process. Because mine is just...well, not great LOL But, it seems to work for me.

See, every time I go to start a new book, I start off strong. I've got an outline, I'm excited about my book, I've got my daily goals and (amazingly) I stick to them - sometimes even surpass them! And then, something happens about 10k in. My motivation begins to dwindle. I still love my story as much as ever. I still want to get it on paper. I still think of nothing but my story. But getting it down starts to become a little tedious. Probably because subconsciously I know something needs fixing...I just haven't figured out what yet.

Here is where my awesome powers of procrastination set in. And believe me, I am EPIC at procrastination ;) I curse myself for getting off task and yet I seem to do everything my power to make it worse.

But then something wonderful happens. About 20k in, I decide that something I've already written needs major changing. Or total deleting. And that something generally changes everything else, even if it's only in minor ways.

So, I go back through all the previous 20k and change that special something. And change all the dominos that change changed. I once even had to scrap the entire thing and start all over. But I fix what needs fixing.

By this time, I'm usually down to about 3 weeks before due date (4 if I'm lucky....and once it was 2 weeks but we don't speak of those dark days).

This is when the freak out of OMG THE BOOK IS DUE IN 3 WEEKS sets in and somehow, I am able to sit down, focus and power write the crap out of my sweet little manuscript.

I wish I could change this process. I wish I could just know what's going to need fixing before I hit that 20k mark. But for some reason, it takes about 20k to really know my characters and my story, no matter how much careful planning I've put into it.

So....after 7 novels and 2 non-fiction books, I think I'm learning to accept this. It's my process. It's just how it is. It's how my creative brain works, how my stories form themselves. And while it's not always ideal :) it seems to work for me. Maybe one of these days I'll figure out how to stay on task the entire time and not have to crank out a whole book in a few weeks but until then, I guess if it ain't broke I won't try to fix it ;)

So how about you? What is your writing process?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Writing Journey: The Hunger Games GIF Edition

With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 being released very soon (November 20th in the UK and November 21st in the US), I decided I'd do a little GIF post

Those moments where fragile inspiration begins:

Where finding/developing a new story is precious:

When the progress of writing feels like:

To those moments where you push to keep going:

To the hard, often destructive, task of editing : 

Then making sure your book baby is the best it can be:

Celebrating the triumph of a completed manuscript:

And the moment you start the query journey:

With highs of success:

And the tough moments of doubt:

And there are times where your writing journey stalls. Times when the words won't flow. Where your creativity feels blocked. Some days are harder than others. Can you write today? Love of writing means  you open up that document and say: 

Because writing, telling stories, is what we do. And... : 

sleep animated GIF
Image via 

All images via unless stated. 

Happy Wednesday.

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Not Always a Smooth Road

Since it feels like I've been posting a lot of giddy "Yay, Crow's Rest is nearly a book" posts here and on my Facebook pages, I wanted to also share a misstep on the journey. It's not a big one, but it left me feeling a little red in the face.

You see, the week before last I got something called "closing notes"--I was warned that it's not as final as it sounds, and would likely be a couple of round of edits before we went into layout. I dutifully went through and addressed all the notes and comments, just as I'd done in previous rounds of copyedits.

In some instances, things had been corrected/changed directly in the text with track changes, and some were addressed in the comments with requests for clarification on sources. So in those cases, I left a comment explaining why I wanted to keep it, or referred them to the source, or whatever issue had come up.

Then I shot the document back to my editor, and we had a few emails about what we would fix and how we would do it. But as far as I knew, I was waiting for another round, or document, to come back to me. So la la la, I dove back into drafting No Man's Land, the sequel.

Ha! I should have known things were too quiet! I then got an email from my editor about something else, wherein he mentioned, "when you make those changes. . ." and I went, "WHAAT?" Apparently, they'd been waiting for me to go in and make the changes and otherwise clean up the document.To be fair, I hadn't been explicitly told that (and I'm nothing if not a literal person), or maybe I was distracted by the request for input on the interior art.

But even though I was embarrassed that I'd unwittingly held up the process, I paid for it in other ways, too--because it meant that the time I had to work on the document was also the two days last week that the contractor came back to start fixing our tile floor. Two days of hearing the grinding of the grout and tile (even with earplugs in and my office door closed), and of clouds of dust waiting for me if I stepped out of my office.

I worked on it steadily, but at about 30% of the rate it would have normally taken me, and I even got a nudge in there from the editor, gently asking if I'd finished yet. But I did finish, and returned them on Friday, and I'm proud of myself for sticking it out under harrowing circumstances.

If anything, this experience has done more than anything previously to make me feel like a "real" writer. But then, ask me again when I'm holding an actual copy of my book, and maybe I'll have a different answer!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Celebrating Picture Book Month

Many writers think of November as National Novel Writing Month, but there's another literary event going on, and it's much easier to celebrate: Picture Book Month. While it's hard to cram in 40,000 words of writing amid holiday celebrations, it's easy to honor and enjoy illustrated books yourself or with children.

Read them. 
Read by yourself or with a child. Browse a bookstore or a library.

Talk about them.

Join the conversation at SCBWI events, online at the Blueboards, or on Twitter at #picturebookmonth.

Brainstorm them.
Participate in Picture Book Idea Month. Started by picture book writer Tara Lazar, write down an idea a day to kickstart your creative process and get your mind thinking in the weird and wild ways that inspire new stories.

Write them.
Shape off your best idea into a story. Sign up for picture book writer Julie Hedlund's 2015 12 x 12 Challenge  and write a picture book manuscript per month.

Picture books are a child's first introduction to literature, but there's no need to outgrow them. Picture books are the beginning of the story of a reader, not the end.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Happy Saturday everyone!

I'm curled up on the couch with a goal of watching all the movies made by the director and producer of a film based on my novel, The Forlorned. I am so excited to have the talented and beautiful Elizabeth Mouton as one of the stars in this upcoming motion picture. You can check out her IMBD credits and read more about her here.

While I was writing The Forlorned, I pictured someone who looked very similar to Elizabeth. It will be so fun to see my vision come alive on the big screen. The rest of the casting will take place November 15th--and I hope to get some really great behind the scenes footage to share with you.

Also if anyone has any questions about screenwriting or breaking into movies, please contact me. I am always happy to help you the best I can.

In the meantime--check out my blog. I'm having a fun contest. All you have to do is become a follower and you will be entered for a chance to win a cool popcorn/candy package.

Check it out here

Friday, November 7, 2014

Your Readers' Changing Perspectives

"Does life imitate art or is it the other way around?" My answer is BOTH.

The story behind the bike in the tree

First art imitated life, and then life began to incorporate art into its branches until today the two are inseparably connected. It almost becomes the chicken and the egg. Trees. Eggs. Chickens. What am I getting at?

Every day I live gives me greater breadth of experience, makes a book I read as a child accessible to me on a whole new level. Have you tried it? Have you read a children's book as an adult and suddenly understood a joke, an aphorism, a character, in a way you never could before? I guess just as important as which books you read is when you read those books. 

Would A Lantern in Her Hand have touched me the same way if I had read it before having children? Would Harry Potter have struck me differently if I hadn't read it with my boyfriend/future-husband? Would I have fallen in love with reading without my fourth-grade teacher's gift of The Girl with the Silver Eyes the day before I moved out of the district? Would I have chosen to be a writer?

My husband has read the entire Harry Potter series three times in the past 9 years. Each time, he mentions something else he noticed or understood. Every time he does, it makes me want to reread the whole series. That's an adventure I'm almost afraid to begin. Some people have lost respect for a childhood favorite in the rereading process. The writing isn't as spectacular as they remembered, and what was first imaginative and whimsical is now pedestrian and formulaic.

As writers, how can we write to our audience when it is ever changing, or ensure our words and themes will resonate with the widest spectrum of human experience? 

Well, a few greats have done it. JK Rowling comes to mind. As does JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. All the classics quoted in your favorite books from Shakespeare to Austen to Eliot. The large majority of books aren't so widely read, for whatever reasons. I don't think the goal is to be JK Rowling. I think the goal is to reach YOUR readers.

In the introduction to Hatchet, Gary Paulsen writes about how surprised he was at the popular response to his book. He just wrote it. He wrote it because it was the story in him. The story resonated with the people who discovered it when they needed it. For many of his young readers, Hatchet was formative.

LM Montgomery wrote a lot before hitting on something that became the single favorite classic for young girls even today: Anne of Green Gables. Now I can't imagine my childhood without its influence.

Write what you know, they say. Good advice. I would add, Write what's important to you. When you hit on that, you'll have found your audience. And though that audience may change over years and decades, hearts will be touched and lives transformed in the reading. And isn't that the point?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Path to Publication, by Kristal Shaff

Copyright: lawren / 123RF Stock Photo

I am no stranger to rejection. In middle school, I was bullied. I often felt like the left out loser. And even now, in adulthood, I sometimes feel that way, too. But my bullying experiences as a youth made me more sensitive and sympathetic to people now.  It helped me grow as a person.

My writing journey has reflected a similar path in many way. When I finished my first book, I wanted to be the person who sent out 5 query letters, have all 5 agents fighting over me, and then have publishers pushing each other out of the way to gain my attention. My journey was NOTHING like that.

It took me at least 70 queries (and 69 rejections) to get my agent. Once we had the book in submission, it had great prospects. I even had an editor at Little Brown Publishing say he LOVED it, but he asked for revisions. In the end, he rejected it, saying he still loved it but he didn't think he could sell it to his other staff. My submission failed. And my agent and I parted ways.

It was at that point in my writing life that my writing stalled. For several years, I couldn't focus on my words. I puttered around with a few projects, but that rejection, so close to publication, really injured me.

During that time, I submitted my manuscript directly to a few publishers and even got a really great personalized rejection from Baen (who gave me a nice comparison to Brandon Sanderson).

Fast forward. I pulled out the book, polished it off again, and entered Angry Robot's Open Door submission. Out of 944 submissions, approximately 24 made it to the level of editorial. Out of those, three were chosen to be published. An additional 3 were asked to rewrite and revise. I was one of those three.

Laura Lam (Pantomime,  Shadowplay, False Hearts)  and I were passed down to the YA imprint, Strange Chemistry, while Wesley Chu (The Lives of Tao, The Deaths of Tao, Time Salvager), was under consideration with Angry Robot.

The three of us waited, and waited, and chatted together. We angsted about our submissions. My two new friends were offered contracts, and I still waited on.

So out of nearly 1,000 submissions, I was the LAST to hear an answer. It reminded me a bit of those early days in my life, when I was picked last for teams on the playground. Then I finally heard my answer. And yup, you guessed it.

After 13 months of waiting, it was rejected by an editor again.

Of course I was ticked, especially when you get a near form rejection after a complete rewrite. I cried … a lot. But after a day of stewing, I realized I would be just fine.

My writing was good enough to gain specific attention of editors, some from really big houses. I was good enough to get an agent. Good enough to be the top six of nearly 1,000 submissions. Even though it ended in another rejection, it gave me the confidence to keep going.

A week after that last rejection, I was given an offer from Month9Books.

People say to trunk your first book. And yes, sometimes I agree. But in my case, I just couldn't. The story kept prodding me to keep going. Besides, it had transformed so entirely from that first draft, and even from the time I was agented, that I knew it had merit. I believed in my story, and so did Courtney Koschel, my rock star editor from Month9Books.

And even though the process of publishing after you get a place is a long process (over 2 years for me), I am here, grateful and excited to be able to finally share it with you.

I will say though … Because of my long process, I am stronger than those waltzing in and gaining success immediately. I’m more sympathetic to the underdogs, the ones who struggle, even the authors who decide to self-publish and do it their own way. It's helped me learn. It's helped me grow. It's thickened my skin. It's made me a fighter. It's taught me to trudge through the snowstorm of adversity. Failure has helped me be a better writer and a better person.

And it’s made this book release so much sweeter.


Available Now!

YA Epic Fantasy from Month9Books

For hundreds of years, dark clouds covered the skies of Adamah, and an ageless king ruled. Those who emerged with one of six extraordinary Shay powers were forced into the king's army, an unmatched force with inhuman Strength, Speed, Accuracy, Perception, Empathy, and Healing. With the army behind him, the king—a man who wields all six abilities—was invincible and unquestioned in his rule. To most, serving the king was an honor. But for others, it was a fate worse than death.

When seventeen-year-old Nolan Trividar witnesses the transformation of his brother from kind to cruel after entering the king’s army, he vows never to follow the same path.

So when his own power—the Shay of Accuracy—comes upon him at the Tournament of Awakening, Nolan conceals his emergence instead of joining the king’s ranks. For years, he traitorously hides his power, pretending to be only a gifted scribe. But when Nolan comes face -to-face with a deserter, the man discovers his secret.

To evade detection and a death sentence, Nolan escapes with the deserter and flees into a night filled with dark creatures who steal both powers and souls. He joins a resistance, a village hidden deep in the forest, filled with others who secretly wield a Shay. But his peace is short-lived when they discover that the dark clouds, undead creatures, their own decreasing powers, and even the king, are all connected
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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A little give and take

Take a close look at the above picture. Can you guess what all five DVDs have in common?

Perhaps I should narrow it down a little more. It does NOT have anything to do with the original book demographic. So you can cross that off your list.

It also has nothing to do with the characters.

Figure it out yet?

Maybe you should look one more time. Just to be sure.

Here's the answer. Are you ready? All five of those DVDs offered a free digital copy with purchase. (Did the answer surprise you?)

This might not seem like a big deal, but for many buyers, it is. If you watch movies on any kind of mobile device, the choice between a DVD and a free digital copy with the DVD is pretty much a no-brainer. For me, it's what cinches the deal. Why purchase the plain DVD when, for practically the same price, I can get the DVD to watch at home, and the digital copy to watch, well, everywhere else?

Indie authors have something sort of like this. I'm not sure if it's available in traditional publishing (if so, please direct me to it), but the indie version is called:

Not all books/ebooks are enrolled in KM, and even if they are, not all are set up for free when you purchase the hard copy. But you'd be surprised at just how many books are enrolled and how many of the ebooks are free.

I love Kindle Matchbook (link), because it's good for both the author and the reader. 

Author Benefit #1: Additional books in a reader's hands means a higher likelihood of your book being read.

Reader benefit #1: Additional books in a reader's hands means a higher likelihood of their book being read. 

Author Benefit #2: Additional book in reader's hands = higher likelihood of your book being gifted.

Reader Benefit #2: Additional book in reader's hands = higher likelihood of them sharing one of their copies.

Author Benefit #3: The author is saying, Hey, reader, thanks for purchasing this hard copy! You matter to me! As a thank you, I want to give you another version! Keep them both, or give one to a friend!

Reader Benefit #3: The author has just given me an extra copy! I feel special! Shall I keep it? Or give it away? Squee!

There are many other benefits to this awesome feature, but the point is, whether you're an indie author who publishes through Createspace and KDP, or a reader who loves to purchase books from Amazon, Kindle Matchbook is definitely a feature worth checking into. 

For more information about Kindle Matchbook, or to search for participating titles, click HERE

Monday, November 3, 2014

Plot running astray?

The second draft of my novel has gone in so many unexpected directions, it feels more like a first draft, and I wish I could do NaNo WriMo with the rest of you wonderful people.

In my revisions, I built an ever-increasing word count that bordered on gluttonous, and it eventually ran my story into the ground. Kind of like this:

For days, I hemmed over how to jump start everything into gear. The answer came when I helped a student hone in on her research paper thesis. I told her a mantra from my own papers: "Stick to your thesis like glue."

I realized my novel's thesis was my synopsis and query, and I hadn't stuck to them at all. Notes and changes were spread across multiple documents, and there was a story thread that didn't need to be there. That's what was blocking my path.

Here's how I got myself untangled:

Step 1: Revised query and synopsis to reflect new story directions, and stuck to it like glue

Step 2: Condensed proposed story changes into a manageable to-do list

Step 3: Sliced out extra story threads that didn't belong

So far, I've been able to subtract 4,000 words, and I now have a clear path to the end:

I hope, whether you're doing NaNo WriMo, or if you're buried in revisions like I am, that you can stick to your query and synopsis (or outline, if that's your preference). Especially if you find your plot tangled or your story stalled. Letting go of what you don't need makes everything a ton easier.

Your turn: What are some ways you've tamed your unruly plots?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaNo Tracker 2014

I'm not able to participate in NaNo this year because we're buying a new house! There's just too much to pack and clean before its completion on December 1st. So overwhelming but so exciting. :)

Even though I'm not participating, I've adjusted my NaNo Tracker from last year to work for this year. If you're interested in using it to help track your NaNo progress, just click here to download the Excel 2007 and newer version.

If you would like the 97-2003 version, shoot me an email or leave your email address in the comments and I'll send it to you. Just so you know, I got about a million compatibility warnings when I saved that version, so no guarantees it will work properly.

If you have issues getting the spreadsheet to work, please take a look at last year's post for more info or leave your questions in the comments.

Happy NaNoing, everyone! I hope you all reach your goals. :)