Thursday, July 30, 2015

Guest Post: Apex Editor Jason Sizemore on "Publishing Myths: You Need an *In* to Get In

Publishing Myths: You Need an *In* to Get In

I’ve been thinking about the publishing business even more than usual lately due to the release of my second book, For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher. In the book, I lay bare the ups and downs of running a small press and pull back the curtain on some of the more lascivious details of my ten years as editor. After somebody reads the book, inevitably I’m asked questions related to the book industry in general.

There is an incredible the amount of misguided opinions and mythical beliefs about publishing that writers and non-writer civilians hold as gospel. Perhaps the worst of these is that writers and editors, as a whole, are making money hand over fist. My own father, who I’ve spent many hours explaining how Apex functions as a business, still believes that I am a dragon hoarding away my publishing gold coins and making a conscious decision to eschew living high on the hog for a life of vanilla middle class.

Dad, you should know me better than that. I’m a high maintenance country boy!

Alas, I think this belief is a lost cause. No matter what I say, no matter what the facts are, people are still going to believe that writers and editors all make the big bucks. Instead I’ll focus on a myth I hope to push a stake through and actually have it stick. The myth that goes like this: in order to be published, you need to know somebody in the business.

I’m sure this belief started early in publishing history. I can picture it now: a lowly writer-type approaches Johannes Gutenberg after he invents the printing press.

“Sir, would you kindly look at my manuscript? It’s a historical romance that is a cross of the Ming Dynasty and the adventures of Joan of Arc!”

And this one lowly writer, having her work published by Gutenberg, then gives Gutenberg a good word about her friend. So begins a long line of ‘begats’ similar to the Bible’s unrolling of bloodlines in the first chapter of Matthew.

Having your book (or short story) published isn’t akin to cracking the Voynich Manuscript. The key is a simple one: have a great idea and then write a good book.

Notice I didn’t say you have to write a ‘great’ book. Don’t worry about building a masterpiece out of your first publication. Very few in the world will write a cultural touchstone like To Kill a Mockingbird or Doctor Zhivago on the first try. If you know how to plot a book and write sentences that make sense and then wrap those skills around a knockout idea for a plot then you’ll be in business.

Perhaps saying this will get me trolled…but I’m a cold-hearted editor, so I’m going for it—two of our generation’s most popular novelists broke in with first novels that succeeded based more on plot and less on writing mechanics. Stephen King’s Carrie is an amazing first novel. So is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Both rely on standard tropes, but the fascinating and engrossing tales that spin out of these books kick-started literary movements on their own.

Having said all that, I won’t lie and tell a writer that having an “in” won’t help. Sometimes, it does. Perhaps a writer pal of yours has a great relationship with his agent. The agent isn’t taking on any new clients, but agrees to look at your manuscript based on the recommendation of your pal. Or you make friends with a popular author leading a writing seminar who puts in a word for you at a short fiction zine.

In most cases, having an “in” will get you a look, but that doesn’t guarantee you a sale. You still have to succeed on the strength of your work. If you feel you have a great idea, I want to encourage you to use any “in” you might have. Grease the wheels of success all you can, because the road is bumpy and there is a lot of traffic out there.

In For Exposure, I recount my encounters with a real person I pseudonymously name Hickory Adams. Hickory is an unpleasant individual who has found me at half a dozen conventions over the years, each time pitching me an awful sounding novel. Each of which I’ve passed on. Over the years, the chip on his shoulder grew. He’s accused me of favoritism. He’s accused me of only publishing my friends. The last time I met him, he bragged to me that he had sold his books to a real publisher. One that he found based on a recommendation by a friend who happens to work with the publisher. He said gatekeepers like me were censoring the hard work of writers like him, even though he’d just told me that his friend worked for his publisher. I could only roll my eyes and find a way out of the conversation post-haste.

Don’t be like Hickory Adams and allow the hucksters of the internet to fill your head with nonsense about gatekeepers and needing to know somebody to be somebody. The profession of writing often rewards hard work. Sure, luck can be involved, but don’t underestimate the value of persistence and patience.


For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher
Apex Publications
182 pages
ISBN: 9781937009304


Born the son of an unemployed coal miner in a tiny Kentucky Appalachian villa named Big Creek (population 400), Jason fought his way out of the hills to the big city of Lexington. He attended Transylvania University (a real school with its own vampire legend) and received a degree in computer science. Since 2005, he has owned and operated Apex Publications. He is the editor of five anthologies, author of Irredeemable, a three-time Hugo Award loser, an occasional writer, who can usually be found wandering the halls of hotel conventions.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Crow's Rest Book Blitz

Welcome to the Crow's Rest Book Blitz! Of course I had to participate in the blitz for my own book, lol. This post is chock full o' goodness, including a how-to for a literary garden accent, buy links for the Crow's Rest e-book on sale, a peek at the illustrated sampler for the Crow's Rest world, and--deep breath--a giveaway!

I'm so excited to be able to share the illustrated companion to Crow's Rest, which is called A Compendium of the Faer Folke. It's been in the works nearly as long as Crow's Rest itself, and I just love the way it turned out. Kudos to Errick Nunnally, who ably handled the art direction on this bonus material!

But first, if you're a Crow's Rest newbie, here's some more about the novel:

Crow's Rest
by Angelica R. Jackson
Release Date: May 12th 2015

Summary from Goodreads:
Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam's, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers—and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone—some thing—has taken his place.

Her quest to find the real Daniel—and get him back—plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.

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  Buy Links:

To add a little more value to this post (and drag out the suspense for A Compendium of the Faer Folke), I'm also sharing a how-to for a signpost I recently put up in my garden:

DIY Literary Sign Post 

I got this idea when I saw a photo of a similar signpost in somebody’s garden, except theirs pointed to all the places they’d traveled to all over the world. Since my trips to imaginary places far outnumber my travels to real places, it only made sense to create a bookish sign post for my garden. It was so much fun to decide which ones to include, and to doodle little accents to the hand-lettered destinations.

What you’ll need:
1- 4”x4”x8’ fence post (don’t use pressure-treated wood if you have edible plants nearby, but otherwise use what you like: wood, composite, vinyl, etc)
Wooden fence pickets, either plain pointed ones, or Gothic like those pictured (we used 12)
Paint for the picket pointers (we used spray paint because the hardware store wanted us to buy at least a quart of each color. One can of spray paint did two coats on two pickets with some left over)
Paint and Sharpie markers for lettering and doodles
A list of destinations

What to do:
1.       Set fence post in ground, with or without a concrete footing. We had to hire somebody to dig a hole in our rocky soil, and since we’re not supporting an actual fence on the post we opted not to do concrete.
2.       Cut (or break them off if you want them to look more rustic) pickets to random lengths, leaving plenty of room for you to letter the destinations on them.
3.       Paint the main color on the pickets, making sure the wood is well-covered so they’ll last longer in the elements.
4.       Paint on the letters for each picket pointer, and use the Sharpie markers to accent the letters as well as adding a doodle if you like. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect—it just adds to the charm. But if you really want them to be uniform, you can print out a font from your computer and use that as a stencil on the pointer.
5.       Once they’re the way you want them and have fully dried, spray a UV-protective acrylic sealer over all.
6.       Drill pilot holes, and use 2” wooden screws to mount each pointer. You can use all four sides of the post if it’s in the center of an open space, but we decided to only use two sides since ours would back up to a crepe myrtle tree.
And that’s all! It was totally easy. Here are a few more pictures. (all photos by Angelica R. Jackson)

And now--drum roll please--check out the illustrated companion, A Compendium of the Faer Folke! Read it here, or get it as a free download!

About the Author:

In keeping with her scattered Gemini nature, Angelica R. Jackson has far too many interests to list here.

She has an obsession with creating more writing nooks in the home she shares with her husband and two corpulent cats in California's Gold Country. Fortunately, the writing nooks serve for reading and cat cuddling too.

Other pastimes include cooking for food allergies (not necessarily by choice, but she’s come to terms with it), photography, and volunteering at a local no-kill sanctuary.

She blogs at Angelic Muse, and is a contributing member of Operation Awesome and the Fearless Fifteeners.

Author Links:
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Friday, July 24, 2015

Guest Post: S.L. Saboviec on Growing Your Character Relationships to Grow Your Character!


Hello, everyone! This is S. L. Saboviec, and I’m pleased to be a guest today on Operation Awesome. I’m author of the Adult Paranormal novel Guarding Angel, and I’m here to talk a bit about my writing process.

When I first started writing, I knew very little about it. (I know, shocker!) I tried different things to flesh out my characters—character questionnaires, interviews, analyzing their personalities, taking online quizzes—but only when I evolved a character development method did I started to become comfortable. In addition to analyzing their personality traits, I examined their relationships with one another.

Let me explain.

Character Growth: Not Just For Characters

The books we most engage with are ones where characters grow as they overcome challenges. But the characters themselves don’t just grow—their relationships with everyone around them grow. Maybe they meet someone new and fall in love. Maybe they love someone but end up divorced. Maybe they have a strained relationship with their child and mend it, or have a great one and ruin it. These relationship changes are what make up good stories.

(I’m not saying you can’t have a character grow without other characters, but it’s much more interesting to see your character grow against their relationships.)

Not only that, but these growing relationships are the stuff of delicious sub-plots: the man who launches a friend’s rescue saves the world from evil aliens (Chronicles of Riddick) or the mother who struggles with her son’s heinous crime comes to terms with who she is as a person (We Need To Talk About Kevin). Chuck Wendig states it even stronger than I have: Character relationships are what makes your plot, not just your sub-plots.

How to Make Your Character Relationships Grow

When getting ready to write a first draft, I have a spreadsheet I call my “Book Map.” Yeah, I’m a plotter… But don’t run away if you’re not! Besides my plot outline, which is totally optional in this method, I keep detailed character information that I refer back to as I write.

In particular, I have a matrix of relationships. Along the top and the bottom, I have each character’s name. Where each character meets, I write about how their relationship grows:

·         How Character A sees Character B in the beginning of the novel
·         How Character A sees Character B at the end of the novel
·         Notes about their growth arc

An example of this would be one I would have done between Enael and Kaspen for Guarding Angel:

·         At the beginning, Enael sees Kaspen as: mysterious, intriguing, and more committed to his Wards’ development than any other Guardian she’s met.
·         At the end, Enael sees Kaspen as: worth fighting for, her soul mate, and strong for having struggled through so many hardships.
·         Growth arc: When Kaspen makes a poor decision because he wants to protect humans, Enael fights for him. (I’m being vague here so I don’t spoiler anything—in case you decide you’d like to read my novel—but when plotting, I would point to specific actions she takes and how it connects to my overall plot.)

I would do a similar one for how Kaspen sees Enael, which would explain why he falls in love with her. And so on, throughout all the major characters. One of my current works-in-progress has twelve major characters, so that’s 12 x 12 = 144 character opinions of other characters to consider. It was a time-consuming exercise, but I usually don’t do every single one, since not all the characters meet or have strong opinions about one another.

And it’s useful in more than one way:

·         It highlights possible sub-plots.
·         It allows me time inside the head of each character, which allows me to understand each one’s motivations more.
·         It highlights redundant or one-dimensional characters.

Hopefully this insight into a small part of my writing process has been useful. For me, the “hair color / eye color / mannerisms” character sheet lists don’t cut it. I need to get into my characters’ heads and really understand what they think of each other. Hopefully I gave you some things to think about and perhaps even strengthen your next revision.

About Me:

I’m a self-published author whose dark, thought-provoking science fiction & fantasy contains flawed, relatable characters and themes that challenge the status quo. Guarding Angel is on sale for $0.99 right now. You can find it at several major eBook retailers and on Amazon in paperback. The sequel, Reaping Angel, will be released in early 2016.

·         Kindle
·         Kobo
·         Nook
·         Google Play
·         Paperback (Amazon)
·         Goodreads

You can also follow me on social media, check out the other stops on this blog tour, or if you like my work, sign up for my newsletter:

·         My newsletter (No spam!)
·         Twitter
·         Pinterest
·         FaceBook

Thank you, Operation Awesome, for having me here today!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bloggers Wanted!

Some changes have been happening behind the scenes here at Operation Awesome, and with those changes, we have some spots now open for new bloggers to join our ranks!

We’re looking for writers who can commit to posting 3-5 times per month

As far as blog posts go, pretty much anything related to the craft or business of writing is welcome. There are a few things that we avoid though, such as politics, religion, etc. We have a fairly diverse group on here, and something political will likely offend someone else. Also, we don't bash a blog post or article on someone else's blog. Let’s just say, if it is a topic that is controversial and might not reflect the collective beliefs of everyone on here, you will want to share that on your personal blog.

We maintain a calendar on our private forum to make it easy to keep track of your posting obligations—and with the wonder of Blogger Scheduling, you can always schedule your post ahead of time when you know you’ll be busy on your day. We understand that life events can sometimes put blogging lower on the priority list, but our posting schedule is flexible to ensure that the posts keep coming.

We see membership in Operation Awesome as an opportunity to make meaningful connections in the publishing community—with writers, agents, and editors—no matter where you are in the journey. Each of us has grown and learned from the experience of group blogging, and if that sounds like something you’d be interested in, please send an email to OperationAwesome6 (at) gmail (dot) com with a short message on why you think you would be a good fit for Operation Awesome, and please include links to your social media and blog sites. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Operation Awesome Reads: July 2015 #amreading

Happy July! I know it's more than half-over, but we hope it's  a happy last few weeks in July! This month, we've got an eclectic mix of books to share with you from our nightstands. 

Wendy finished reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, The Chronicles of St. Mary's series (books 1-5) by Jodi Taylor, Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave by Jen White. She is currently reading Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Take your fiction to the next level!Maybe you're a first-time novelist looking for practical guidance. Maybe you've already been published, but your latest effort is stuck in mid-list limbo. Whatever the case may be, author and literary agent Donald Maass can show you how to take your prose to the next level and write a breakout novel - one that rises out of obscurity and hits the best-seller lists.

Maass details the elements that all breakout novels share - regardless of genre - then shows you writing techniques that can make your own books stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace.
Carolyn's not so different from the other human beings around her. She's sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn't gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient Pelapi customs. They've studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.

Sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She's sure of it. What she doesn't realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she's forgotten a great deal about being human.
A madcap new slant on history that seems to be everyone's cup of tea...

Behind the seemingly innocuous fa├žade of St Mary's, a different kind of historical research is taking place. They don't do 'time-travel' - they 'investigate major historical events in contemporary time'. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power - especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet.

Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary's Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document - to try and find the answers to many of History's unanswered questions...and not to die in the process.

But one wrong move and History will fight back - to the death. And, as they soon discover - it's not just History they're fighting.
After their mother's recent death, twelve-year-old Liberty and her eight-year-old sister, Billie, are sent to live with their father, who they haven't seen since they were very young. Things are great at first; the girls are so excited to get to know their father – a traveling photographer who rides around in an RV. But soon, the pressure becomes too much for him, and he abandons them at the Jiffy Company Gas Station.

Instead of moping around and being scared, Liberty takes matters into her own hands. On their journey to get home, they encounter a shady, bald-headed gas station attendant, a full-body tattooed trucker, free Continental breakfast, a kid obsessed with Star Wars, a woman who lives with rats, and a host of other situations.

When all seems lost, they get some help from an unlikely source, and end up learning that sometimes you have to get a little bit lost to be found.

Winner of the 2015 Nebula Award.
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Katrina read Good to Great by Jim Collins, A Mother's Influence by Margaret Nadauld, and Closer to the Light by Melvin Morse, M.D. She is currently reading The Lost Prince by Francis Hodgson Burnett.
Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?
A Latter-day woman who follows
Christ's example in her daily living can be a powerful influence for good in the
lives of her children," writes Margaret D. Nadauld, former Young Women General
President. Each chapter of this inspirational book for mothers is designed to
build confidence and courage for raising a family in today's world. For every
woman who has felt that society does not value the role of motherhood or
wondered if the job is worth the effort, A Mother's Influence points to
the long-term impact of strong families and notes that the very future of the world is at stake.
The skeptics have had their say; now listen to the experts. In hundreds of interviews with children who had once been declared clinically dead, Dr. Morse found that children too young to have absorbed our adult views and ideas of death, share first-hand accounts of out-of-body travel, telepathic communication and encounters with dead friends and relatives. Finally illuminating what it is like to die, here is proof that there is that elusive "something" that survives "bodily death." "New information on what may await us after death...Responsible, highly readable, and certainly thought-provoking."
For five hundred years... the royal line of Samavia has been in hiding, bound by the oath of the Forgers of the Sword. A father and son take up their dying country's cause and the dream of seeing its secret king enthroned. Their dream becomes a game. The game becomes a mission. Then the plan calls father and son to go on different journeys. Samavia waits and hopes that in the end it will bring them both back again to the same place.

Angelica read Crane by Stacey Rourke. She is currently reading No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII by Robert Weintraub.
The Horseman is unending,
his presence shan’t lessen.
If you break the curse,
you become the legend.

Washington Irving and Rip Van Winkle had no choice but to cover up the deadly truth behind Ichabod Crane’s disappearance. Centuries later, a Crane returns to Sleepy Hollow awakening macabre secrets once believed to be buried deep.

What if the monster that spawned the legend lived within you?

Now, Ireland Crane, reeling from a break-up and seeking a fresh start, must rely on the newly awakened Rip Van Winkle to discover the key to channeling the darkness swirling within her. Bodies are piling high and Ireland is the only one that can save Sleepy Hollow by embracing her own damning curse.

But is anyone truly safe when the Horseman rides?
The extraordinary tale of survival and friendship between a man and a dog in war

Flight technician Frank Williams and Judy, a purebred pointer, met in the most unlikely of places: a World War II internment camp in the Pacific. Judy was a fiercely loyal dog, with a keen sense for who was friend and who was foe, and the pair's relationship deepened throughout their captivity. When the prisoners suffered beatings, Judy would repeatedly risk her life to intervene. She survived bombings and other near-death experiences and became a beacon not only for Frank but for all the men, who saw in her survival a flicker of hope for their own.

Judy's devotion to those she was interned with was matched by their love for her, which helped keep the men and their dog alive despite the ever-present threat of death by disease or the rifles of the guards. At one point, deep in despair and starvation, Frank contemplated killing himself and the dog to prevent either from watching the other die. But both were rescued, and Judy spent the rest of her life with Frank. She became the war's only official canine POW, and after she died at age fourteen, Frank couldn't bring himself to ever have another dog. Their story--of an unbreakable bond forged in the worst circumstances--is one of the great undiscovered sagas of World War II.

Toni finished Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman and started Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. 
Fat Charlie Nancy's normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn't know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother.

Now brother Spider's on his doorstep -- about to make Fat Charlie's life more interesting... and a lot more dangerous.
Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

Karen is reading The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.
What's on your nightstand?