Thursday, December 31, 2015

Operation Awesome's Top Blog Posts of 2015

Happy New Year's Eve!

On this, the last day of 2015, we're taking a look back at our most popular posts of 2015 according to our stats. (This does not include contest posts.) So sit back, grab some champagne (or whatever you're enjoying today!) and take a look at Operation Awesome's Best of 2015 List!

Posted Sept 14, 2015

In this part of our new writing series, Melissa takes us through her step-by-step process of how to rework a piece of fiction when you know it needs some major work.

Check out the rest of our writing series here:

9. Urban Fantasy Resources by Angelica R. Jackson
Posted January 5, 2015

Angelica shares with us some thoughts on the genre of urban fantasy -- what it entails, what books are great examples, and how opinions on it may vary. She gives us some insight into how UF crosses over into other genres such as steampunk, magic realism, and paranormal.

Posted September 16, 2015

Speculative Fiction writer Terra Luft weighs in on whether or not it's worth a writer's time to write short stories (spoiler: it is!)

Check out some of Terra's short fiction:
"Fly on the Wall" coming soon in Ind'Spiration Digest

Posted January 10, 2015

If you're looking for a way to track your writing progress through the year, jump back to almost a full year ago and download Abby's handy, color-coded spreadsheet! You should simply be able to change the date on these to start fresh for 2016!

Posted September 4, 2015

As part of her Guarding Angel blog tour, our very own Samantha Saboviec first posted on Operation Awesome as a guest, describing how she uses character relationships in her series to demonstrate growth within the characters themselves.

Keep your eye out for her second book in this series coming in February!

Posted September 4, 2015

This year, Operation Awesome underwent some major changes. We said goodbye to a number of our former bloggers as they moved on and said hello to some new contributors who are excited to bring our readers their new thoughts, ideas, and experiences.

Among those who moved on:
Posted March 16, 2015

Angelica helps us dive into her book Crow's Rest, specifically in looking at the gorgeous interior design and how it adds to the ambiance and feel of the story.

Doesn't it just make you want to hold a copy in your hands?
Crow's Rest is now available! Check out Angelica's page HERE for info on where to purchase it.
Posted September 3, 2015

Children's book author/illustrator Taryn Skipper weighs out some of the pros and cons of trade publication vs self-publishing when it comes to picture books, and how she came to her decision to self-publish.

Want to check out Taryn's books or other illustrations (the dinosaurs are my favorite!)? More info is available on her webpage:

Posted September 11, 2015

Samantha urges us all to pull out our highlighter stash and take a good, hard look at the balance of our action, dialogue, backstory/exposition, and description over the first pages of our novel. Not only is it colorful and fun, but it's a great way to visually assess where your first pages may be losing readers.

And... our #1 blog post of the year...

Posted July 30, 2015

Apex editor Jason Sizemore wrote for us an excellent post about one of the myth surrounding publishing -- the belief that you have to know people in the industry in order to become a published author.

He also shared with us a bit about his new nonfiction book, For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, which can be purchased at

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Guest Post: Small Press/Big Press Pros and Cons by Lawrence M. Schoen

I’ve been at this for a while, more than twenty years writing and selling stories and novels, and in that time I’ve had five books published from small presses (six if you count an early ebook from the days before there were Kindles). There are a lot of pros to being published by a small press, but there are also limitations, even when your publisher loves your work and you’re the biggest fish in that small pond. My new novel, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, is my first venture in the world of the big press. Specifically, it’s being published by Tor Books, the largest of our genre’s publishers in the US. Or to put it another way, I’m now the littlest fish in the biggest pond.

Accordingly, this seemed like a good topic for this guest post: my thoughts on the pluses and minuses of small and big presses. So, in no particular order, here we go:

AGENTS - I didn’t have one when I sold those books to the small presses I’ve worked with. Heck, in several instances I actually wrote the contract for my publisher (leaning heavily on my own experiences as a small press publisher and cribbing language from a variety of SFWA templates). And because I negotiated those book sales directly with each of my publishers, I didn’t need one. The resulting contracts only ran between one and three pages, but did require me to educate myself on all the points that an author needs to be familiar with before signing a document — in particular what rights are being acquired and when the work reverts.

By comparison, I managed to sell Barsk before I had an agent, and quite literally the same day I received an email from my editor saying he was buying the book I began beating the bushes for an agent. And a good thing too, because the Tor contract ran 34 pages written in dense lawyer-speak. More still, my agent ended up crossing out, altering, and/or amending more than half of the language in the document (yeah, I have a pretty awesome agent). After my other contract experiences, I consider myself pretty well versed on the language, but in this case that translated into knowing that I was woefully under-equipped to tackle a big press contract without professional help.

ARTWORK - I had a major amount of input on the covers for all of my small press books. I picked the artist and I always worked with her and the editor, providing feedback on early sketches and color schemes and all of that. The results were pretty fantastic (and here’s a shoutout to that incredible artist, Rachael Mayo!). More recently, with Barsk I had no input into the artist. Instead I had Tor’s legendary art director, Irene Gallo, who enlisted the astonishing (and award winning!) Victo Ngai to produce one of the best book covers I’ve ever seen in my life! I really lucked out here, and I have no explanation how or why.

Seriously, we’ve all heard the horror stories of mass market paperbacks showing blonde, blue-eyed characters on the cover when every person in the book is described as dark and swarthy. It’s a great thing to have influence in the cover of your book, and that may be one of the biggest perks/reasons of the small press (assuming you have that kind of relationship with your publisher), but there’s a lot to be said for the resources a big press can put behind a cover in terms of the talent they can attract.

TURNAROUND - In my experience, small presses have very small staffs, often as little as the one individual who started the thing. As such, they don’t do as many books, and the publishing calendar isn’t as full. Consequently, don’t be surprised if your book doesn’t need as much lead time and you see the bound result in your hands that much sooner. On the other hand, one of the reasons the process goes faster is because small presses aren’t set up with the same advertising schedules as big presses. Advance copies probably won’t be printed and sent out to other authors for potential blurbs with lead time to include them on the back cover, nor will a team of marketing people meet with bookstore buyers to pitch your book a year before its release date long before your final edits have even been turned in. Small press distribution isn’t as complex an issue either, and the sheer number of copies that will be printed (or which your publisher hopes to sell) are probably an order of magnitude lower at least. But wait, there’s more. Getting reviewed by the major players (by which I mean PW, Booklist, Library Journal, and Kirkus) can be harder. Some won’t review small press at all, or may require longer lead times than are practical for a small press, or insist on a physical galley which your publisher simply isn’t equipped to provide before the book is actually going to press.

In the world of small press where your editor and publisher are the same person, that person is also responsible for all the other myriad tasks, like submitting your book for review and for award consideration. That can be a good thing because you have fewer people to communicate with when decisions are being made, fewer links in the chain. The odds are good that every factor affecting when your book will come out will run much smoother (in terms of months or years!) compared to the timetable of a big press. On the other hand, it also means that when “life happens” your entire project can be derailed for months at a time. Trade offs.

MONEY - Let’s face it, most small presses are a labor of love — certainly the one that I run is — and while the publishers want to make a profit, the ones I’ve worked with also want this to be true for their authors. But it’s a business, and as is true of any business profits favor the company over the folks who supply the product (and this is true for big press as well). Neither size press is going to live or die on the fate of your book. It’s a numbers game and unless you have multiple books in the stream you don’t even have a seat at that table.

That said, in my experience even a low advance from a big press is going to be many times what you get compared to a big advance from a small press. I’ve actually sold foreign reprint rights on some of my small press sales that earned me more than the initial advance. Crazy, right?

RECOGNITION - Issues of money aside, every author I’ve ever met wants to be read. The odds of this happening are better with a bigger press simply because they have greater resources. Copies of your brilliant prose will find their way to a wider audience (this is also true of pirated copies!) and more people will see your work.

WHAT’S IT ALL MEAN? - Probably not a whole lot. Most of us aren’t in a position to choose, particularly at the early part (however you choose to define that) of a writing career. We tend to grab eagerly at whatever opportunities are put in front of us. And too we’ve bought into the narrative that it’s an uphill climb, that bigger is better, that the small press is just a stepping stone on the way to a lucrative big press contract.

I’m not disagreeing with any of that, but once you’ve grabbed that brass ring I think there are plenty of reasons for still publishing with a small press, particularly when it comes to projects that are too controversial or too specialized for a big press to want to invest in.

In the end perhaps the best thing I can tell you, big or small, is that you want to work with someone who believes in your story. This should also be true with respect to your agent. You want to be appreciated. You want to be valued for your vision and your talent. You want to be published by someone who sees you as a writer first and a potential profit second. Or at least, that’s what I want. And in my opinion, achieving that goal is more important than the size of the publisher who’s printing your book.


Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. He spent ten years as a college professor, and has done extensive research in the areas of human memory and language. This background provides a principal metaphor for his fiction. He currently works as the director of research and analytics for a series of mental health and addiction recovery facilities in Philadelphia.

He’s also one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language, and since 1992 has championed the exploration and use of this constructed tongue throughout the world. In addition, he’s the publisher behind a speculative fiction small press, Paper Golem, aimed at showcasing up-and-coming new writers as well as providing a market for novellas. And too, he performs occasionally as a hypnotherapist specializing in authors’ issues. 

In 2007, he was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He received a Hugo Award nomination for Best Short Story in 2010 and Nebula Award nominations for Best Novella in 2013, 2014, and again in 2015. Some of his most popular writing deals with the ongoing adventures of a space-faring stage hypnotist named the Amazing Conroy and his animal companion Reggie, an alien buffalito that can eat anything and farts oxygen. His latest work is a very different kind of book, an anthropomorphic SF novel that explores prophecy, intolerance, friendship, conspiracy, and loyalty, and a drug that lets you talk to the dead.

Lawrence lives near Philadelphia with his wife, Valerie, who is neither a psychologist nor a Klingon speaker.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Our Favorite Books of 2015

It's time to look back on the past year of books! We had the opportunity to talk about some amazing books in our Wednesday Debut Interview series, including:

Fractured Immmortal by E.L. Wicker
Tunnel Vision by Susan Adrian
Heartsick by Caitlin Sinead
Sachael Dreams by Melody Winter
Fairy Keeper by Amy Bearce
Everything that Makes You by Moriah McStay
Any Way You Slice It by Kristine Asselin
Nobody's Goddess by Amy McNulty
Anna, Banana, and the Friendship Split by Anica Mrose Rissi
The Tulip Resistance by Lynne Leatham Allen
Run Away by Laura Salters
The Rearranged Life by Annika Sharma
Secret of the Sevens by Lynn Lindquist
Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave by Jen White
Syeira by Gill L. Holland
The Haunting of Springett Hall by EB Wheeler
Not After Everything by Michelle Levy
A Clear Solution by Eric McFarlane
Traitor Knight by Keith Willis
Link by Summer Wier
Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul
Stillwater by Melissa Lenhardt
The Daring Prince Dashing by Marilou Reeder
Grudging by Michelle Hauck

Other new books we've featured:

Crow's Rest by Angelica R. Jackson
Red Blooded by Caitlin Sinead
Dragonfire [Secrets of the Makai Book #3] by Toni Kerr
For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher by Jason Sizemore
An Owl Goes Trick or Treating by Sherrida Pope
Sidekick by Natalie Whipple
Hybrid [The Domino Project #2] by KT Hanna

Besides all those wonderful books, here's a few more we've read and enjoyed over the past year:

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
This YA fantasy retells the story of 1001 Arabian Nights with beautiful language, a fierce and determined female lead, and just the slightest hint of magic. This one does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, but you only have to wait until May for the sequel that will tie it up.

The Pretty Ones by Ania Ahlborn
Ania's strength is in building amazing, realistic characters and then doing really terrible things to them (in a psychological rather than gory way [with one or two exceptions]). This book is crafted to be uncomfortable but unputdownable. She's got two more books that I haven't read, and I'm definitely going to be reading them in 2016.

Golden Son [Red Rising #2] by Pierce Brown
Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within. (Goodreads)
Darrow is a very compelling hero; he has strong motives driving his actions, making his choices believable even when shocking or violent. I can't wait for the third book to come out!

P.S. I Still Love You [To All The Boys I've Loved Before #2] by Jenny Han
Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once? (Goodreads)
I loved Lara Jean and her family--all of the characters felt real to me. I think that's essential for contemporary YA.

Luther and Kathrina by Jody Hedlund
This historical romance explores the unusual courtship of religious reformer Martin Luther and Katherine von Bora, the runaway nun who became his wife. The historical aspects are well-researched and immersive.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
The setting is so deeply rooted in the Central Valley of California, but the magical realism gives it a wondrous twist on the familiar.
- Angelica & Karen

Bindi by Nnendi Okorafor
The world-building in this book is immersive and gorgeous, and the main character has a gentle strength that made me love her so much. I've started on another book by this author, and I'm loving it, too. I might end up devouring everything Nnendi wrote in 2016.

Scarecrow edited by Rhonda Parrish
Rhonda carefully picks out stories with strong characters, interesting world building, and tough choices. I picked this one over Corvidae (published this year, too) because anthropomorphic birds freak me out; however, I recommend all three in her Magical Menageries series.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab
I love how this fantasy combines four different, overlapping magical worlds and tells the story of a Traveler who has the ability to slip from one world to the next and the dangers he encounters in each one. The language is incredibly vivid and the story is so much fun.

The Sound of Life and Everything by Krista Van Dolzer
Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin back to life from blood on his dog tags, Ella Mae is skeptical—until he steps out of a bio-pod right before her eyes.
But the boy is not her cousin—he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and despised. When her aunt refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae and her Mama take him home instead. (Goodreads)
I loved the blend of sci-fi and historical fiction, but the best part for me was the ending took me by surprise.

Monday, December 28, 2015

New in 2016: #OABookClub

Well, hello there, my sparkly holiday celebrants! This is Samantha, and I'd like to welcome you the first of several book-related posts that will ring in the new year with a bang. Today's topic is an exciting New Thing We're Gonna Do starting in 2016.

Writers are readers, and the Operation Awesome team is no exception. We decided that in the new year, we should get together and have cawfee and tawk about books. Therefore, I bring to you: #OABookClub.

At the beginning of each month, we'll announce a book we're reading. Our criteria are 1) something most of us have an interest in, 2) something stand-alone (i.e. no series), and 3) something that is available in most libraries. Throughout the month--assuming we aren't waiting until the day before the post to cram--we'll be talking away on the hashtag #OABookClub on Twitter. Feel free to join the conversation. On the first of the next month, we'll get together, give our impressions of the BotM, and invite you to weigh in, too.

January's Operation Awesome Book of the Month

For this month, to celebrate the inaugural round of our fabulous new contest, Pass or Pages, we'll be reading an iconic book written by an iconic mystery writer.

In the village of King's Abbot, a widow's sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study--but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow's blackmailer. King's Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd's wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim's home. It's now up to the famous detective Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King's Abbot to garden, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd--a task in which he is aided by the village doctor and narrator, James Sheppard, and by Sheppard's ingenious sister, Caroline.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is the book that made Agatha Christie a household name and launched her career as a perennial bestseller. Originally published in 1926, it is a landmark in the mystery genre. It was in the vanguard of a new class of popular detective fiction that ushered in the modern era of mystery novels.
Join us! Operatives Wendy Nikel, Katrina Lantz, Kara Reynolds, and I will be posting our impressions on February 1st, and we'd love to chat about it with you in the comments.

Tweet: I'm reading THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD by Agatha Christie in January for @OpAwesome6's #OABookClub. Join me?Click to Tweet: "I'm reading THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD by Agatha Christie in January for @OpAwesome6's #OABookClub. Join me?"

You can also save this image and add it to your tweet:

But wait! There's more!

2016's Operation Awesome Book of the Year

This is unofficial and possibly the only time I'll do this.

I decided that I need--THAT'S RIGHT, NEED--to read Les Miserables. (Someone might also be demanding encouraging me to write a retelling of it--set in space, because of course--but I have committed to nothing.)

Except, in case you haven't heard, Les Mis is rather long. So I made myself a new year's resolution to read a little bit every day or so and finish it by December 31, 2016. I have been informed by my husband that it is not suitable bedtime reading for my 16-month-old, so that's out. But despite the harrowing setbacks, I'm still planning on doing it.

If you'd like to follow along, I'll be tweeting my reactions on the Twitter hashtag #LesMisRead2016. I'll give an update on the first at the end of our BotM post, too. If you'd like to read along with me, well, go get yourself a copy and we'll start on Friday. (The version I bought is about 1250-ish pages, so it's about 3.3 per day.)

Full disclosure: I struggle with classics. So. We'll just see how this turns out.

Tweet: I'm reading LES MISERABLES in 2016 with @Saboviec. Join me? #LesMisRead2016
Click to Tweet: I'm reading LES MISERABLES in 2016 with @Saboviec. Join me? #LesMisRead2016

Hope you guys can join in! Who's reading along with us?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday Debut Interview: Vicious Circle by Elle E. Ire

Welcome to another Wednesday Debut Interview! Today, we're talking with Elle E. Ire, whose debut sci-fi LGBT romance recently hit the shelves.

Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed at Operation Awesome! Tell us a bit about VICIOUS CIRCLE!
Thanks for having me! VICIOUS CIRCLE is an adult sci-fi/LGBT (f/f) romance featuring a bisexual female assassin protagonist and a lesbian romantic interest. Think Xena: Warrior Princess in space with the subtext as the main text. Lots of action, multiple worlds, and a little magic thrown in on the side.

One of the coolest things about science fiction (at least in my opinion!) is the world-building. Can you share some of the unique aspects of the universe of VICIOUS CIRCLE? Would you want to live in this future?
VICIOUS CIRCLE is set primarily on two very different planets--Sardonen, which is a harsh, sparsely-populated, desert world, and Lissex, where the privileged population resides on dozens of islands, most of which are owned by different ruling families. There are many other settled worlds in this far future as well, and advanced starship travel between them. Languages vary, though most people speak the standard language in addition to whatever their native tongue might be. Belief systems come and go, but the people of Lissex belong to a religion known as the Givers of Life and are devoted to the teachings of their ancient text--the Generational, while on Sardonen, the Guild of Assassins is practically a religion all its own.

As for wanting to live in this future? Definitely not on Sardonen. Blazing sun, endless rocks and sand, and poison-spitting sand lizards are not my idea of a vacation spot. But Lissex? Laid-back, casual-attired island life? Sign me up. Add in interstellar passenger liner travel, and I'm totally there.

Do you have a favorite line in this book? Can you tell us a bit about it without spoiling too much?
I don't have a favorite line so much as a quick interaction:

I was up and at my cell's bars before the guard made contact. My arm went through the narrow space and around his neck. One twist and a sickening, wet crunch, and the enforcer dropped at my feet. I glanced at Vargas while pawing through the guard’s uniform. The pirate looked ill. 
"Don’t tell me you’ve never killed anyone before,” I snarled, coming up with the keys. 
Deftly, I inserted them in the exterior lock and let myself out. 
Derrick Vargas puffed out his broad chest. “Certainly. But I’ve never seen a woman do it with her bare hands.” 
This time I was the one with a wicked gleam in my eye. “You haven’t associated with the right women.”
This bit is a personal favorite because it sums up the main character, Cor, nicely. She's deadly, highly-skilled, efficient, and still manages to keep a sense of humor.

Let's talk about your writing process. How long did it take you to draft this novel? How long from that first draft until publication?
This novel took three months to draft. At that point, it was the fastest I'd ever drafted a novel, though I have beaten that by about two weeks on a more recent work. It also underwent almost no editing, though I did add a few antagonist scenes that took about one more month. However, it was several years before it found a home with a publisher.

What's the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
Insomnia. My characters wake me up at night. They vie for attention. They run conversations five different ways in my head until they are just right for whatever scene I'm working on. It's wonderful, but it does make for some sleepless nights.

Can you tell us about how you got your book deal with Torquere Press, LLC and what makes them a good fit for your book?
Actually, I just wrote them a query letter about the project. At the time, I was between agents, so I did this on my own, though I did sign with a new literary agent shortly thereafter, and she negotiated the contract. Torquere Press is a great fit for VICIOUS CIRCLE because they primarily publish LGBT romance, and though mine is more sci-fi than pure romance, I knew readers looking for the sort of thing I write would be familiar with Torquere.

What about the title? Was VICIOUS CIRCLE the original title you had in mind? How did it come about?
VICIOUS CIRCLE was the original title, yes. It's actually based on a line from the novel and pretty much describes the main character's life.

Tell us about your cover! Who designed it? How much input did you have? What do you hope it will tell the reader about your story?
Ah the cover. :-) I'm so thrilled that my debut novel's cover art turned out so perfect for the story and my assassin main character. Kris Norris designed it and did a spectacular job, if I may say so. I had a lot of input including filling out a lengthy form explaining what I did and did not want to see, font styles, colors, and images. I sent her several images of that particular model. I knew that woman was Cor. And the cover blurb? J.A. Pitts, author of the Sarah Beauhall series, wrote it for me. I was soooo nervous asking him to blurb VICIOUS CIRCLE. He's one of my all-time favorite authors. When he said he'd do it, I almost dropped my computer. And if you're looking for a great urban fantasy/f/f romance series, then check his out.

Releasing a debut is definitely cause for celebration — how did you celebrate this achievement?
We had a great launch party. About fifty of my friends came, from every avenue of my life: college, work, neighbors, writing groups. Some of them I hadn't seen in ten or more years. We served beverages appropriate to the two major characters from VICIOUS CIRCLE. Cor, the assassin, has a taste for unusual craft beers, and Kila loves blueberry wine. It was definitely an afternoon I'll never forget.

What are you working on now that VICIOUS CIRCLE is done?
Well, my agent is currently shopping an Old West/time travel/zombie/romance novel for me. Yeah, I have a hard time picking a single genre to write in. I also have several in-progress projects I'm fiddling with, trying to decide which one to get serious about. A bisexual rock star character named Lexi Cade has been waking me up at night, so she may get her book next.

Is there any other advice you'd like to pass on to others pursuing publication? Anything you would have done differently?
The biggest advice I have is Keep At It. Your first book doesn't get an agent? Write another one, and another, and another. Let people with real writing/publishing experience tell you what you're doing wrong, and LISTEN TO THEM. Keep honing your craft. My fourth novel was the one that got me my first agent, and when that one didn't sell, I wrote another one. VICIOUS CIRCLE was the fifth novel I completed, even though it's the first to be published.

And that leads right into what I would have done differently.

After writing my third complete novel, and being rejected by about 80 agents, I became so discouraged that I stopped writing for five years. Five years! Imagine all the books I could have written in those five years! I'd give so much to have those years back. If I had it to do over, I would keep writing despite the rejections, because I was so close, and I had no idea.

Great advice! And, just for fun: what actresses would you cast for the lead roles in VICIOUS CIRCLE?
Ah, Xena: WarriorPrincess in space, remember? I'd totally cast a 28-year-old Lucy Lawless as Cor, and a 19-year-old Renee O'Connor as Kila.

Thanks again for telling us all about your book, and congrats on your debut!!

Purchase VICIOUS CIRCLE here!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Giftmas Blog Tour Guest Post: On This Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me . . . by Eileen Wiedbrauk

Operation Awesome is participating in Rhonda Parrish's 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends across many blogs as well, and you can find more on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

On This Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me . . .
by Eileen Wiedbrauk

The first holiday romance anthology I ever read was The Christmas Cat. I was probably 13ish because I remember reading these on the bus coming home from middle school. My mother had been in the habit of buying me all sorts of animal stories like All Creatures Great and Small and Cat Stories by James Harriet. This was no James Harriet. Inside were indeed stories of cats. Cats who used their nine lives to bring together couples, either through traveling through time or reuniting lovers who shouldn’t have separated to begin with.

Cats and sex as it turned out. Holy hot Lord of Misrule!

I was hooked on holiday romances from then on. And not just the sexy ones either. But just about every made for TV Christmas movie. Have you heard the episode of Ask MeAnother where they give two contestants Christmas movie scenarios and try to get them to guess which are real and which are made up? The contestants failed miserably. Meanwhile, I was shouting at my radio, No, no, that one’s real! I’ve seen it! Twice!

So of course, as Editor-in-Chief of WorldWeaver Press, I wanted to put together an anthology of fantasy and paranormal winter romances!

In 2013 we came out with A Winter’sEnchantment, a three-novella anthology of winter magic and loves lost and regained. They included The Devil inMidwinter by Elise Forier Edie, a melding of Mexican and Central American folk and fairy tales with a modern Mexican American girl who’s being pursued by a demon and a boy who burns and burns. Both would have her for his own, but figuring out which, if either, would help save her will be her real challenge. It also featured a novella in the Fate of the Gods series by Amalia Dillin, which follows the many, many lives of Eve reincarnated. This one in Taming Fate takes plase in France in the Middle Ages, where Eve is facing down the plague while facing a new marriage that isn’t . . . well, just isn’t. And the third novella, Opal by Kristina Wojtaszek, is a gorgeous, lyrical melding of many fairy tales into a bright new story following the intersecting lives of a magical girl born as an owl and a boy trapped in a tower.

Then when we launched Red Moon Romance, our first imprint, focused on—you guessed it—romance, we of course had to come out with a sexier holiday anthology.

The Naughty List, edited by Cori Vidae and featuring Tiffany Reisz, Alexa Piper, Pumpkin Spice, Elizabeth Black, Doug Blakesee, and Wendy Sparrow, came out just last month. It’s a blast. The ghosts of Christmas past, Krampus, cowboys and bourbon desserts, a little holiday BDSM, and the son of Father Time put to the test on New Year’s Eve. The stories range from sexy to sweet and prove love is better on the Naughty List.

If you’re a writer looking to submit to a holiday anthology, there’s always a publisher out there looking to put together another bundle of holiday romances—I’m not the only reader who’s hooked!

The most important thing to keep in mind when submitting to a holiday anthology is timing. Many publishers put out a call for submissions in the early months of the year for holiday stories with a deadline as early as March, if they’re anthologies, or August, if they’re magazines. When editing A Winter’s Enchantment, I couldn’t stomach the thought of reading Christmas stories in the middle of a sweltering summer, so I purposefully set our reading period as December and January to create extra time before bringing out the anthology the following winter. It’s best to keep your eyes peeled as these calls pop up throughout the year and are usually only open for short windows since the publishers have much less date-of-publication flexibility as compared to other projects.

Another thing to keep in mind is that holiday romance anthologies are often filled by invitation. This means that writers whom the editor knows are solicited by the editor to send her a story. The best way to have a story solicited is to have worked with that editor before or to have enough work out that you become known to her. In both A Winter’s Enchantment and The Naughty List, the final table of contents was a mix of stories sent to us through regular submissions and stories from writers whom we specifically asked for work.

Why write a holiday novella or short story? If you usually write novels, a holiday story can be a great tie-in, a chance to expand on already established characters by showing them briefly in a short story. Jumping into an anthology or bundle can also be a means of gaining the attention of new readers who come to the anthology with the intent of reading another author in the anthology and then discover your work. It can also be a great chance to explore and showcase cultures, modern or historical seasonal traditions, and holidays that aren’t as well known. The holidays have the tendency to bring out the best and worst in people, and tension like that should not be overlooked in story writing.

Eileen Wiedbrauk ( is Editor-in-Chief of World Weaver Press and Red Moon Romance as well as a writer, blogger, coffee addict, cat herder, MFA graduate, fantasist-turned-fabalist-turned-urban-fantasy-junkie, Odyssey Workshop alumna, designer, tech geek, entrepreneur, kdrama devotee, avid reader, and a somewhat decent cook. She wears many hats, as the saying goes. Which is an odd saying in this case, as she rarely looks good in hats. She writes creepy fairy tales like this one and can be found on Twitter @eileenwiedbrauk.

Friday, December 18, 2015

New Contest from Operation Awesome!

Operation Awesome is excited to announce a new query contest coming in January.

This contest features feedback from agents on queries and first pages. Have you ever been to a "Simulating the Slush Pile" panel at a writing conference? This is similar. Our panel of agent judges will read queries and first pages from our entrants, and make notes of where they would stop reading and WHY. Some agents may even decide that they would request more pages from these queries!

We hope the feedback for the chosen entrants will benefit those observing as well, because it will give you a glimpse into the tastes of our panel of agents as well as tips you can apply to your own queries.

Contest rules and agent announcement will be in the beginning of January, so keep checking in!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Giftmas Blog Tour Guest Post: About Writing and Holidays and Gifts--oh my! by E.C. Bell

Operation Awesome is participating in Rhonda Parrish's 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends across many blogs as well, and you can find more on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

About Writing and Holidays and Gifts--oh my! 
by E.C. Bell

I’m a writer. I’m also a mother and a wife and a daughter and a sister and a friend, and I spend a lot of time trying to find just the right Christmas gift for the special people in my life. Sometimes I hit a home run, and other times--well, at least I tried!

But I realized that I don’t often give good suggestions when those same people ask me what I’d like for Christmas. That made me wonder about all the other families of writers. Do they have the same problem as mine? Quite possibly.

So, here’s my Christmas gift to all you lovely people who are involved in the care and feeding of a writer. The five or so best gifts to get the writer in your life (in no particular order).

(And if you are a writer, just print off this list, circle the gift you want and give it to your loving family. They’ll appreciate it, trust me.)

A room of her own.

All right, now this seems like a big one, but having space to write is vital. So, if your writer doesn’t have an office, check everywhere and see if there is a spot that can be set up as a “room of her own.” I believe Stephen King wrote in a furnace room for a while--so, hey, that might be the place to start looking. Wherever the space is, though, make certain that the door (and there must be a door) can be closed, if not locked. Because as much as we love you, writers need a space where they can be alone to create. (Cats and dogs don’t count, of course. For one thing, it’s impossible to keep either a cat or a dog out of a room if they really want in, and besides--Aww! A puppy on your lap! How sweet is that?)

Time to herself.

This goes hand in hand with the “having a room” gift. As much as you want to show her the “real cool thing I found on the internet, it will only take a minute,” don’t. If the door is closed, leave her be. She’ll come out when she’s hungry--or when you’re hungry. (It’s funny how writers transform back into moms and/or wives when that door opens.) And as helpful as you think you are being, don’t knock on the door every ten minutes to ask “How’s it going?” She’ll tell you, later. But give her some time, so she can create.

“How can I give time as a Christmas gift?” you may ask. Well, remember way back in primary school, when you made “coupons” for your parents for father’s or mother’s day? “This coupon is worth one hug”, or “one joke,” or whatever? How about making a bunch of those for your writer? “I won’t bug you until 4 pm, every day.” “Don’t worry, I’ll make dinner.” Or the always wonderful, “You don’t have to do the laundry this week. I got it.” Costs you next to nothing, and believe me, your writer will love them!

A lot of the type of pens she likes.

All right, this might be just me, but I have a certain type of pen I prefer to write with. It’s not expensive, but I’m absolutely certain that someday--someday soon--that particular brand won’t be made anymore. So... I hoard them. Boxes of them. (I can’t be the only one!) So, find out what kind of writing instrument your writer likes and buy a box.

When she tells you the type, don’t say, “Oh, those are so cheap, why don’t you try this kind?” because you are not being helpful. Just get her a box of whatever she likes, slap a bow on it, and thank the gods of writing that she didn’t ask for a box of the S.T. Dupont James Bond Spectre Fountain pens (a thousand pounds each at Harrods, just so you know).

Paper -- preferably in legal sized pads. (Yellow IS the best, but whatever.)

I know. Paper. How passe. Here’s the thing, though. Writers sometimes need to physically write. On paper. So, find out the kind she likes, and get her a lot of it.  Personally, I like yellow legal sized pads of paper. Why yellow? Because it’s cheap and cheerful. (Not necessarily in that order) I buy them by the gross, so I always have them on hand. (There is nothing worse than having that “great idea” and having to scribble it down on the back of a to do list or a grocery store receipt. Seriously.)

A variation on the paper theme--Post It notes. Get them in various sizes, and in different colours. Most writers I know LOVE Post-It notes.

Writing clothes. (In other words, pajamas and sweaters)

All right, so maybe the pajama and sweater thing is just me (again). I remember when I first started writing seriously, I imagined myself sitting at a perfectly clean desk (ha!) and writing while wearing a flowing lace dress (HA!). The reality? Not so much. What I wear, always, are pajama pants and an ugly, baggy, sweater. (In the winter I wear thick socks, too, but they aren’t required year round, so I won’t add them as absolutely necessary.) So, find the ugliest, baggiest sweater you can--no, wait, that would be for me. For everyone else, ask your writer what she likes to wear when she’s writing, and then riff on that theme. (Honestly, though. The uglier and baggier, the better!)

What happened to alcohol? (Don’t all writers drink???)

You’ll notice I didn’t add any beverages to this list, but if none of the above suit your fancy, then beverages will have to do. Make sure you ask what your writer likes, though, because, trust me. If your writer has a favourite type of pen (for heaven’s sake), she is probably pretty picky about her choice of drink, too! (Just sayin’.)

What? No electronics?

Nope. Most  writers I know own every electronic gadget known to man already. They don’t need more gadgets. They need to write.

Hope this helps, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season with your favourite writer!

Eileen (E.C.) Bell’s debut paranormal mystery novel Seeing the Light  (2014) won the BPAA award for Best Speculative Fiction Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Bony Blythe Award for Light Mystery. The second book in the series, Drowning in Amber, was released into the wild at the end of October, 2015. Her short fiction includes the Aurora Award winning Women of the Apocalypse and The Puzzle Box. When she’s not writing, she’s living a fine life in her round house with her husband and two dogs.

Enter the Rafflecopter for cool prizes!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Small vs Big Publishing Houses by Sheena Snow

Today on the blog, we have a guest post by Sheena Snow, an author whose YA SF debut is out tomorrow!

Small vs. Big Publishing Houses
by Sheena Snow

What’s the best decision for you?

Small publishing houses, most likely Amazon only reaching only houses? Or the big boys—the giant publishing houses that can get your book into every bookstore, as well as Amazon? Well, the question seems almost obvious from the start, doesn’t it? Umm… the BIG publishing houses. And that may very well be right. But it may also very well be wrong.

The big publishing houses might be your dream come to life. Maybe you are the next Veronica Roth. Her first book ever published, Divergent, hit the NY Times Best Seller list shortly after it was released, and now, she has a successful series under her belt and a movie rocking the charts. But, I believe, Veronica Roth had two very important things weighing in her favor: a superbly well written book and luck.

With the big houses authors have almost no say in: the cover art, the title, ebook only (they may never offer it in print), and if the book will be a series or serial. Once the author signs that contract--so excited to have a big house backing them--they haven’t even realized how much power they have signed away until things don’t start going the way they expected.

And this is exactly where the draw comes in for small publishing houses. With small publishing houses, authors have more of a say. They are much more about “author pleasing” than the big publishing houses. For the small publishing houses to attract authors away from the big house--since they can’t provide the marketing or the already established clientele from the big houses--they attract authors through: higher author royalty rates, control over release dates, cover art, series/serial, and more freedom with following editing comments. They are also more likely to take on a new author that needs a lot of editing work than a big house will. Small houses have the time and energy to put into a potentially blooming author.

To sum it up, what the big polishing houses don’t offer, the small publishing houses do offer, and vice versa. The choice, therefore, is entirely up to the author. What is it the author would like out of this? Do they want to start big? Have little control over their book but have a better chance at establishing a clientele and be in book stores? And then go to the small houses once they have their readers? Or the opposite? Start small, learn everything they can, and then go big knowing exactly what rights they will and will not sign over?

It’s deep food for thought and no matter what the author chooses, the end result is learning and understanding.

I am so happy with my decision to go with Soul Mate Publishing. I got exactly what I requested for the cover art for SPARKED and I needed someone to put in a lot of editing time into me. Soul Mate was more than patient and kind and everything I was looking for. They only thing they don’t provide is the marketing, bookstore copies, and already established cliental of the big houses. But every author needs to weigh the pros and cons and make the decision for their-self.

I would love for you to read SPARKED. Under the guidance of Soul Mate Publishing, my writing has thrived to create a novel that’s deep, dark and dangerously human!

Check it out!

They weren’t supposed to have feelings.

Metal will Clash

In a not-too-distance future, robots composed of metal for bones, electric cords for veins, and synthetics for skin are now available. For purchase. Eighteen-year-old Vienna Avery’s home is going to change forever, now that her mom purchased an Italian Chef Robot to cook and reside in their house.

Secrets will Unfold

The government claimed robots were indifferent, unthinking pieces of metal and elastic—assistance for the help of humans. Vienna never believed much of what the government said. The pieces didn’t always fit. And now Vienna knows why, because she’s uncovered the government’s secret: that robots have emotions, sucking Vienna into the underground world of feeling, thinking, and sovereign robots.

Sparks will Fly

Alec Cypher is everything a robot is not supposed to be: deep, dark, and dangerously human. And for some reason, he wants to save Vienna from the government’s prying, vindictive eyes. Going forward, Vienna will have to learn to trust robots and battle the growing feelings she never thought possible . . . feelings for the green-eyed, soul-searching robot named Alec.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Writing Series: Revise & Resubmit and What Really Happens Then

For today's writing series post, I asked a number of writers whom I knew to tell me about their own experiences with getting a "Revise and Resubmit" from an agent. As you'll see, no two "R&Rs" are alike, and actual results may vary!

Changes requested: Radical changes! My viewpoint character in the original draft went to very dark places, and the agent asked for me to shift the entire tone of the second half, and have him find redemption rather than Evil. It was over 50% re-write.
How did you feel?: It wasn't my original vision, obviously, but in terms of saleability it made a hell of a lot of sense. So I gave it a try and made the changes.
Time from request to re-submission: 2 months
Time from re-submission to response: 12+ months
(After acknowledgement of receipt, she didn't reply. No reply to nudges, either. For twelve months.)

Outcome: OFFER from R&R agent and from other agent
I wrote it off, and assumed no response meant no. I got an offer of rep elsewhere, (which required another huge re-write, fun fun fun!) and I mailed the R&R agent to let her know, along with everything else outstanding on my spreadsheet. It turned out she had read, loved, and given the MS to other people at the agency, and she was about to offer rep herself. I felt pretty bad, but twelve months of no response is a long time to lose trust in a business relationship, so I went with my gut and signed with the first offering agent.

Changes requested:Agent 1: Plot, Agent 2: Pacing, Agent 3: Pacing
How did you feel?Agent 1 offered me a phone call, as well as 10 pages of notes. We brainstormed together via email. Agent 2 has offered me a R&R and good advice in the past. Agent 3's comments were so close to Agent 2's comments that I knew the revisions needed to happen.
Time from request to re-submission:For the plot--four months--I basically re-wrote the book. I received additional R&Rs on the revised manuscript before I heard back from Agent 1, who had not yet read it. Since the comments from Agents 2 and 3 made so much sense, I asked all agents if they would accept an updated copy. The pacing R&Rs took about six weeks.
Time from re-submission to response: still waiting
Outcome: still waiting (good luck!)

Changes requested:
When I received an R&R response from an agent, I was conflicted. On the one hand, I was thrilled by what she liked about my manuscript. On the other, I wasn't sure how I could improve a main character's motivation for an important action, could make one action scene more dramatic, or could spice up the conflict in the latter part of the story. I'd already tried to do all that through three previous drafts and three sets of beta comments. Argh, what did she want!

How did you feel?
I contacted my betas and asked for feedback. I didn't hear, "Wow, I don't understand what this agent is saying at all," but rather, "She makes some good points." Over several days, I came to realize the agent was right, but I still wasn't sure how to make the corrections. We emailed back and forth as I sought clarification and bounced ideas off her. After a week, I had a clear vision for how I wanted to revise my manuscript and was actually happy to do so. The work would end up stronger.

Time from request to re-submission: 5 weeks
It took me five weeks to make my changes and have one of my trusted betas read through to check for any problems with what I did: was anything nonsensical, contradictory, or ambiguous; was the grammar or punctuation off; were there omitted, extra, or misspelled words I didn't see because I'd read the book so many times? Then I sent the revision off to the agent with a cover email describing the changes I had made.

Time from re-submission to response: 2 weeks
Outcome: OFFER
Two weeks later, she offered representation. I looked at the other agents with pages or outstanding queries and realized I wouldn't prefer any of them to her. So I withdrew my manuscript from consideration by any of them and happily signed that long-sought contract with her agency.

Changes requested: Initially, it came as a rejection, but with really specific feedback, so I wrote back to thank them for taking the time to send the feedback, and mentioned that I was considering taking a stab at it. They wrote back requesting an R&R. The changes were specific to my protagonist's character arc--they felt the way he evolved was a little too subtle and wanted to see him change more dramatically by the end of the book. 

How did you feel?
I could see their point, but was very torn about it because I had worked really hard specifically to keep the character arc subtle in the first place. Still, I could see where they were coming from, so I was willing to give it  a go. (Maybe they were right and I was wrong as to what kind of approach would work better)
Time from request to re-submission: 3+ weeks
I was about 3 weeks in, when I got an offer from a different agent for the MS "as is" and decided to go with that agent because, after talking to him, I realized he completely got the subtlety I'd been going for in the first place. That being said, if I had finished the edits for the R&R, it probably would have taken me about a month all in all.
Time from re-submission to response: N/A
Outcome: WITHDRAWAL due to OFFER from another agent on the original!
[W]hen I wrote to give notice of offer of rep for the MS "as is," they wrote back with a very nice note, wishing me the best and reminding me that this is a subjective business and that they're glad the book found a home with someone who got it the way it was originally written.


Changes requested: The MS was on the short side, and she wanted to see more of the H/h's character arcs fleshed out apart from the romance aspect. She asked pointed questions about what she thought was missing, but generally didn't have an issue with the plot structure itself.
How did you feel?: I loved the requested changes. There had been something in the back of my mind bothering me about the plot of the novel, so when I got her email and notes it was a forehead-slapping moment: "Duh!"
Time from request to re-submission: 3 months
Time from re-submission to response: 2 months
Outcome: PASS
Final outcome was a rejection. A short email saying the new version was better, but she couldn't take it on.

Changes requested: Pacing and plot
How did you feel?: At first, uncertain. But I was much happier with the end result after the revision.
Time from request to re-submission: 3 months
Time from re-submission to response: 2 months
Outcome: PASS
She praised the revision, but passed

Changes requested:
Plot strengthening and tightening
How did you feel?:
Considering my experience with my first R&R, I was more open-minded. This time I researched even more about story structure and plotting, and the revised version was much stronger
Time from request to re-submission: 1 month
Time from re-submission to response: 3+ months
(I withdrew my submission after waiting about three months)

Submission withdrawn by author

Changes requested:
The changes were generally minor and related to characterization. My agent didn't get very specific (she let me figure out how to fix things) but said the motivations of certain characters needed to be clarified.
How did you feel?
I was overall okay with the requested changes, though more so after they were done than before/during the edits. I wasn't as certain at first but am happy with the end product.
Time from request to re-submission:There were a few rounds of edits, then an email snafu, so it was about a year between the initial R&R request and the offer of representation. Each round of edits, though, probably took me two to four weeks.
Time from re-submission to response:She was pretty quick (as far as agents go!), aside from the aforesaid email snafu (which caused a delay of a few months). Other times, though, she turned drafts around in less than a week.

Outcome: OFFER
Offer of representation (huzzah!).

Changes requested:
The requested changes were to put more focus on the relationship between two characters while cutting a particular use of narrative form used in the book (journal entries of the main character), and to consider eliminating the details of nerd comic book culture. So basically a refocus of the book and elimination of a key character detail.

How did you feel?
My first reaction was that the agent didn't "get" the book because it required cutting a thematic character detail. But after a few days of sitting on it I realized the suggestions resonated and I could write a better book, refocusing that nerd detail into the manuscript in a different way.

Time from request to re-submission: 4 months
Time from re-submission to response: 2 months
Outcome: PASS
I got a "not for me" rejection on the revised manuscript. I can't say for sure if it contributed to the final no, but I knew I took a risk with not completely eliminating one detail of what the agent didn't like and trying to rework it a different way-a risk I took willingly because, well, it's the heart of the book to me and I know agents also like when you work with their advice and not simply follow it blindly. In the end, I have a much stronger book more in line with what I originally set out to write and it's still generating new requests.

Changes requested: Structural (changing a nonlinear timeline to a linear one)
How did you feel?:
Conflicted, but once I tried out the changes, I agreed that it was much clearer & smoother
Time from request to re-submission: 1 month
Time from re-submission to response: 2+ months
After two months, I nudged with an offer of rep from a different agent
Outcome: PASS/OFFER from another agent
While the initial agent ended up passing, the new version did result in an offer of rep from another agent