Friday, January 29, 2016

Pass Or Pages Entry #5

Welcome to our feedback reveal for Pass Or Pages. In this contest, randomly chosen entries were critiqued by our agent panel. We hope it will give everyone a sense of what is going on in an agent's head as they read queries and first pages. We're so grateful to the members of the agent panel who gave their time to provide feedback on these entries. We'd also like to thank the entrants. It's hard to put yourself out there. Thanks for being brave!



There is no how-to manual for coping with a stalker/killer bent on ruining your life no matter where you try to hide.  Nor is there a manual for dealing with the grief/relief felt after the murder of two ex-husbands[CF1].  Allison Franks really needs both.

A killing crusader known as the "Dirtbag Killer" is relentlessly pursuing Allie no matter where she tries to hide.[CF2] This persistent stalker/killer[CF3] has made her life a living hell.  The recent slaughter of her latest ex-husband, Dirk Daggett, [US1] has ensured law enforcement spot lighting her as the prime suspect and threatens her job as a civil servant with the Indianapolis Police Department.  She risks her life and that of life-long friends[CF4]. James Ivan McArthur, a military criminal lawyer, and Elson Moldavian, ex-lover, and retired syndicate enforcer in an attempt to detour the investigation and get the detectives to focus on someone else. [US2]

Daggett's murder ignites a series of events exposing the secrets of two rival crime syndicates, a crooked FBI agent, as well as her personal killer/crusader.  In a final dramatic encounter,[CF5] Allie comes to grips with her troubled past and her serial killer/stalker while realizing everything we do in life has consequences, both good and bad. 

I'm sending my query in hopes you will consider my novel, LOW FLYING DIRTBAGS, a woman's mystery/domestic noir novel, complete at approximately 82,661 words.

[CF1]This feels like a clich├ęd opening. I see the use of “character could use a manual” in at least a couple queries a month. Find another way to reward what’s going on.

[CF2]Don’t use the same phrase twice in your query

[CF3]Try to limit the use of x/y – pick one term and use it.
[US1] She should just stop getting married, then there would be no killer/stalker.

[CF4]This is awkwardly worded maybe change to “She risks her life and the lives of her life-long friends….”
[US2] Awkward sentences, I would stop here. The way the characters are introduced is confusing.

[CF5]Cut this – we don’t need to know that doesn’t happen until the dramatic encounter and you don’t need to tell us there is one. It is a mystery – they should always end with one.
[LA] I’m passing on this entry. It sounds like it might be interesting but the query is very confusing, so I’m not sure what I’d be getting. I suggest tightening and restructuring so the query so it reads more like a pitch, or an invitation to read, than a summary or synopsis of the book. Focus on the main theme or plot and what is driving the story and the main character(s).

FIRST 250:

Dirk Daggett woke screaming.  He felt as if thousands of fire ants were crawling along the length of his body, biting and gnawing on his flesh.  He shivered while trying to lift a hand to his mouth.  He couldn't move.  He blinked, trying to focus as he realized he was naked and strapped to a metal table.  He screamed again as his pulse beat like a hammer banging into an open wound.  He closed watery eyes and willed himself to wrestle down the panic while trying not to struggle against the restraints knowing it would only intensify his agony. [US]

Dim light filtered through a small grimy window set high on the cinder-block wall above his head.  He smelled mold and mildew and felt an icy chill causing him to shiver again.  It was quiet as a burial ground except for the sound of water slowly dripping.

"Help me!"  Daggett coughed.  His mouth felt cottony and his throat raw.

A soft chuckle snaked through the gloom.

"Please, help me!"

The clip-clop of hard-soled shoes echoed on concrete as overhead florescent bulbs clicked on, flooding the room with light, forcing him to wince from the burning glare. 

Carefully Daggett cracked his lids allowing light to leak into his pupils.  When his eyes finally focused on his captor, he saw sky blue orbs looking at him with curiosity, draped in a loose-fitting, long sleeved, green hospital gown.

[US] I dislike gerunds and there are 8 in one paragraph. Find a better way to describe the action and bring the reader into the story.
[CF] This is a little too familiar. I feel as if I have read a scene just like this before. You may be starting in the wrong place.

Uwe Stender: PASS
Caitie Flum: PASS
Mark Gottlieb: PASS
Lisa Abellera: PASS

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pass or Pages Entry #4

Welcome to our feedback reveal for Pass Or Pages. In this contest, randomly chosen entries were critiqued by our agent panel. We hope it will give everyone a sense of what is going on in an agent's head as they read queries and first pages. We're so grateful to the members of the agent panel who gave their time to provide feedback on these entries. We'd also like to thank the entrants. It's hard to put yourself out there. Thanks for being brave!

Entry #4 RAKER


I am seeking representation for my 75,000 word new adult, suspense thriller, Raker.

Two detectives and a beautiful, visually impaired, young woman must identify, [US1] confront, and subdue an elusive killer.[CF1] Marvell Lake, a summer resort and university town that appeals to an upscale clientele with an active nightlife scene, is plagued by a series of homicides. The vicious killer utilizes a modified garden tool as a weapon to dispatch victims in a graphic method unique to the motives of the perpetrator. [US2]

The characters are comprised primarily of university students of various ethnicities and members of the local community.[CF2] Jezebel Rhodes, a beautiful, young dancer and university student, may be the only one capable of ending the bloodshed.

Laced with insight into dance techniques and a strict, unwritten code of etiquette, a gathering of young dance contestants compete for the ultimate dance trophy while shadowed by a vengeful killer.[CF3]

Thank you for considering Raker. I look forward to hearing from you.

[US1] There are certainly punctuation errors here, first concern.
[CF1] Is this young woman Jezebel? She seems to be the main character. If it is the same person, start with her. “Jezebel, a beautiful, young dancer. must identify……”
[US2] Awkward phrasing. I would stop here. My advice is to read a lot of jacket copies to get a better idea as to what a pitch is.

[CF2] This sentence isn’t needed. Tell us about the main character, the antagonist (which you have done) and one other character – usually the main characters love interest, best friend, or in this case, one of the detectives she is working with. 

[CF3] I suggest moving this to the beginning of the query. Add a little to the beginning of the sentence and it is your hook. It shows what makes this different from other suspense thrillers. If you move this to the beginning, you will need a new last line to tie it together
[MG] Falls under 80k, the minimum book length

FIRST 250:

As she straddled her companion, Jessamine Rhodes pulled the black rayon, neck [US1] tie firmly around the bare skin of her lover’s neck.

The young man located beneath her, Kurt Degen, instructed Jessamine.

“Tighter…,” he gasped.

Dressed only in crimson red, Chantilly lace, baby-doll lingerie, the young woman clenched her fists and drew the fabric taught, constricting the trachea of her companion. Jessamine simultaneously increased the frequency and rate of motion [US2] of her hips.

“Almost there…,” Kurt murmured.

The face of the young man turned red.

“Okay, remove…take it off…”

Jessamine complied and relaxed her arms. The neck tie slackened.

Kurt inhaled deeply and paused for several moments. The deafening silence was disrupted by the slow and audible exhale of the young man. Jessamine removed the neck tie and discarded the tie to the floor.

Jessamine smirked and discreetly removed the forest green, satin sheet covering her legs. She carefully removed herself from her lover, placed the soles of her bare feet on the cool, hardwood floor and rose to a standing position. Jessamine stretched her arms and casually walked across the floor in the direction of the bedroom window. She pulled both panels of the forest green, room darkening drapes aside along the curtain rod and proceeded to raise the window sash.

Jessamine arched her back and closed her eyes as an early autumn breeze entered through the open window into the bedroom. She raised her pale, slender arms above her head exposing her petite frame to the warm air.

[US1] Misplaced comma

[US2] If this is supposed to be sexy, it is not working for me.  I do not connect with the narrative voice at all.
[CF] I don’t think you have started in the right place on this. This is not showing us anything about your main character or the main story. It feel like gratuitous sex and made me go from wanting to read more to no longer being interested.
[LA] I’m passing on this entry. It ‘s just not for me, plus I’m already working on a thriller with a visually-impaired young woman..

Uwe Stender: PASS
Caitie Flum: PASS
Mark Gottlieb: PASS
Lisa Abellera: PASS

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pass Or Pages Entry #3

Welcome to our feedback reveal for Pass Or Pages. In this contest, randomly chosen entries were critiqued by our agent panel. We hope it will give everyone a sense of what is going on in an agent's head as they read queries and first pages. We're so grateful to the members of the agent panel who gave their time to provide feedback on these entries. We'd also like to thank the entrants. It's hard to put yourself out there. Thanks for being brave!

Entry #3 BENEATH


Journalist Cora Mayburn doesn’t believe in demons, at least not those with horns and pitchforks.
When she receives an assignment on a snake-handling church in Appalachia, she’s hesitant. A survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of a supposed holy man, Cora ran from the church and never looked back. But taking the story is a smart career move, so she agrees. [US]

Cora observes the town preacher's naked [CF1] lust for a teenage girl in his congregation and decides to stay and expose the minister for what he is. But something more than desire is drawing the preacher to the girl, something much older than the devil, something that wants to remake first the town, then the world beyond, in its abominable image.

Cora must fight against a being that has always slumbered deep beneath the earth, a being that will usher in the end of everything she has ever known.

Beneath is an adult horror thriller complete at 80,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

[US] I don’t like to read sexual abuse stories so stop. But even if I did, I don’t like the writing here. The query is (un)intentionally vague.
[CF1] I suggest deleting this word.
[CF] I would have to pass on this because it is not the type of horror thriller I represent.
That said, it is a very strong query. Your main character is intriguing, the plot is creative, and the writing is strong.
[MG] Horror is a tough genre

FIRST 250:

Cora Mayburn had read about sleepy little towns like Hensley, North Carolina, had passed by more than her share of them on her drives from Atlanta to New York, but she had never actually stopped longer than the time it took her to fill up and use the ladies. This time, however, she was staying longer, not on her accord, but because Jimmy had told her not to come back until she had her story. [US]

“Snake handling,” he said as he stubbed out his cigarette and lit another. “People love to read about extremism in religion. Makes them feel better about their own shitty lives to know that somewhere out there is someone whose life is more fucked than theirs. If they know that there are people who have never seen a television, they can handle one more day of not ramming their car into oncoming traffic.” He blew a thin stream of smoke into the air, took a sip of coffee, winced, and set the mug on the edge of her desk.

“I don’t touch the religion stuff, Jimmy. You know that.”

“It’s a hot story, Cora. I’m talking national attention kind of hot. Alan put a teaser on the site last week. Most clicks we’ve had in a while.”

“You put a teaser up without a story?”

Jimmy grinned and traced his toe across the navy carpet like a little boy caught doing something he shouldn’t. “Way I figured it, I needed my best reporter on it.

 [US] I don’t like the writing here at all. Just uninteresting. I would stop here. I need to know Cora better before I am invested in her point of view.
[CF] I think you could make this leaner. Look at cutting “had” from the first paragraph. It reads better as “Cora read about…passed by…never actually stopped”
Also look at cutting words from last sentence of the first paragraph. Every word should need to be there and right now it feels wordy. You could cut “however” and “not on her accord, but” and it flows a little better.

[LA] I’m passing on this entry. The writing isn’t pulling me into the story. I didn’t feel grounded enough in the scene and didn’t connect with the characters.

Uwe Stender: PASS
Caitie Flum: PASS
Mark Gottlieb: PASS
Lisa Abellera: PASS

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Pass Or Pages Entry #2

Welcome to our feedback reveal for Pass Or Pages. In this contest, randomly chosen entries were critiqued by our agent panel. We hope it will give everyone a sense of what is going on in an agent's head as they read queries and first pages. We're so grateful to the members of the agent panel who gave their time to provide feedback on these entries. We'd also like to thank the entrants. It's hard to put yourself out there. Thanks for being brave!



Meet Sam Jameson. [CF1] She’s an athlete with a self-deprecating sense of humor trying get [US] her life on track after a family tragedy. Just as she takes up hot yoga to work through her grief, she becomes the target of a stalker. There are notes left on her windshield, a strange package on her doorstep, and her car is keyed with a nasty epitaph. As a former sprinter, Sam realizes she can’t run from her pain or her fear, but learns to gather strength in and out of the yoga studio. [CF2]

Sam is the protagonist in my novel titled Corpse Pose, the first in a series of suspense novels set in the enigmatic world of health and fitness. In the next installment (Finish Strong), Sam competes in a sprint triathlon, where a dead body is found floating in the water. The following book (Defensive Stance) takes place in a high-energy kickboxing class.[CF3]

Sam Jameson and Corpse Pose have been floating around in my head for years. I finally decided to write the book I wanted to read: a little intrigue, a little inspiration, and a lot of heart. [CF4] I'm in the process of looking for an agent, and would be thrilled if you would consider my tales.

[CF1] This is a little overused. You can just start with “Sam Jameson is an athlete….
[US] Missing “to”. Careless. I would actually stop here. Please, always proofread.
[CF2] I want to know more in the last sentence. Right now, it sounds like you are trying to sell readers on going to a yoga studio, not your book. What does she do about the stalker? Is it someone from her past? Gives some hints to the mystery and leave agents wanting to read more.
[CF3] I just want to hear about the book you are querying, not the other books. You can mention that it is the first in the series, but don’t need to provide details
[CF4] I would pass, on the query as it is right now, because of the above and also because I am not sure where it is on the mystery/suspense spectrum. The crime sounds like it would be very suspenseful, but this sentence makes me think it is lighter.
[MG] need to know word count

FIRST 250:

The music was loud, which was good. Head-banger stuff, trite and unimaginative. [US] But it afforded a cover for quiet footfall through the apartment, which was an added bonus. The first phase of the plan had gone unexpectedly well. It was almost a disappointment, how easy it was. Everything else – admittance into the locked lobby, memorizing her schedule, attacking the perfect moment – had been scrupulously researched and executed. The Metallica was pure serendipity.

After moving in buried silence to the bathroom, the door frame was a perfect hiding spot to watch her parade before the mirror. She faced away from the door and appraised herself from the side. Now there was a woman trying too hard. Much too old to be wearing skin-tight jeans and a slutty top. As she turned her torso from left to right, looking back over her shoulder at the bloated body she offered the world, it was easy to use her distraction to reach in and turn out the light.

“Shit. Now what?” she mumbled, as if somebody was there.

She moved toward the light switch, and it required only one sudden move to wrap a hand around her weak little wrist. As fingers curled tightly against her skin, she shrieked, a high-pitched scream that echoed off the bathroom tile.

It was a shame the knife couldn’t be seen in the dark, but that couldn’t be helped. Sleek and serrated, it would feel as good going in as it did coming out.

[US] I don’t like it when a novel begins with non-sentences. I know the intent is to create suspense, but we need a setting, not a breathless introduction. Place the reader into the novel’s world by guiding him into the world.
[CF] These first 250 words do not match the tone set in the query. If this is closer to the tone of the book, you should edit the query to match.
While I really like this tone in the 250 words, if the tone matches more the tone of the query, I think you have started in the wrong place. If you are going back and forth between Sam and the stalker, I think you should start with Sam. Let readers know that this strong, inspirational voice is the main tone of the book and the darkness is beneath the surface.
The writing in this is VERY good.

[LA] I’m passing on this entry. From the query, I was expecting to meet Sam Jackson with her self-deprecating humor. Opening with a murder is somewhat overused as a “hook.” Also the transition to a new character’s perspective in the last paragraph didn’t work for me.

Uwe Stender: PASS
Caitie Flum: PASS
Mark Gottlieb: PASS
Lisa Abellera: PASS

Monday, January 25, 2016

Pass Or Pages Entry #1

Welcome to our feedback reveal for Pass Or Pages. In this contest, randomly chosen entries were critiqued by our agent panel. We hope it will give everyone a sense of what is going on in an agent's head as they read queries and first pages. We're so grateful to the members of the agent panel who gave their time to provide feedback on these entries. We'd also like to thank the entrants. It's hard to put yourself out there. Thanks for being brave!

Entry #1: COLLARED


Hidden from the world by century-old pines,[US1] is a small Midwest town populated by a stuttering priest, a lesbian biker, a palm-reading waitress, and a strange hermit.[US2]

Sheriff Jimmy Beal sits in the cruiser pondering life after death, Vera Henderson looks in the mirror and ponders whether she's capable of committing murder, and Ham Forney simply wants his mother back.

COLLARED is a 73,500-word[MG] adult mystery novel - Garrison Keillor meets Fargo. Told from a multiple POV with interwoven story lines, COLLARED is the story of Eden Bay, where people have gone missing, cats are being killed and someone keeps sending large sums of money to the church.
 In the book's climactic scene between the vengeful Ham Forney and his surprise killer, some residents of Eden Bay will be freed from the collars that restrain them while others will remain forever bound.

[US1] Misplaced comma, 1st concern, awkward first sentence.
[US2] So it is populated by these four, i.e. a population of four. I would stop right here. I think you ought to be more precise in your descriptions and what they actually mean.
[CF] This query is very confusing. It lists four people in the Midwest town, then describes three. Also - the sheriff doesn’t sound like he is one of those original four. You don’t want to mention too many characters in your query as it leads to confusion
It also doesn’t show what the central story is. Instead, it has a lot of hints at several stories. What is the main plot? Is it the missing people? Is it Ham’s vengeance? Find that central point and focus the entire query around that. The sheriff is the main investigator, are any of these other characters helping him investigate or all they all suspects? That would be something that would be helpful to know.
You don’t need to mention everything that is happening in the query, but you do need to make sure it hooks the agents. Right now, I am confused, which is too bad because this is exactly the kind of mystery I am looking for. 
[MG] Under 80K is too short for me. Pass.

FIRST 250:

Chapter 1 - The Fourth Cat
To say that Sheriff Jimmy Beal was angry would have been a vast understatement. Anger was simply the flame under a bubbling cauldron of loss, frustration, despair, resentment, and fear that made up his life. [US]

“This is the last thing I need,” he mumbled as he leaned against the sun-warmed metal of the cruiser and took a drag off his second cigarette of the morning.

It was a sunny, almost balmy day March day, a fact for which he was grateful. He was bone-tired of the low-slung leaden clouds that had covered the sky like a dome for the past five months.

He squinted down at what was left of the carcass, cocked his head and studied it for a long moment. It had been there a day, maybe two. And it looked like all the others.
 Something or someone was killing the cats in Eden Bay. Not dogs, not even puppies. Just cats.

And whatever it was, was very tidy. The guts - intestines, lungs, heart - were in one pile and the fur was laying nearby. Like the others, this cat’s head was set carefully on the pelt looking up at the sky. [CF1] Four cats in two months. At least that’s what had been discovered so far. This recent kill had been found in a weed-choked abandoned lot near Brantley Road. 
 Sheriff Beal eased down on one knee, tugged a pen out of the pocket protector of his shirt and lifted up one side of the pelt.

[US] Over the top description , poor imagery. I would stop here had I requested a sample. Images need to be used more cautiously and precisely.
[CF1] These sentences are wonderfully gruesome. Feels like it is setting the tone for the manuscript.
[CF] This is a solid start, and I really feel like I know who this character is immediately. 
Do look at your use of metaphor and simile. Too much too early can be a little distracting.
[LA] Interesting start. Although I’m not into books with animal killings or mutilations, I like the voice and how the writing pulls me in. I’m interested in reading more, please email the 1st 50 pages and 1-page synopsis to lisa at (@) kimberleycameron dot (.) com with #Passesorpages referenced in the subject line and your query pasted in the body of the email. Thank you.

Uwe Stender: PASS
Caitie Flum: PASS
Mark Gottlieb: PASS
Lisa Abellera: PAGES!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #8 Winner

Many thanks again to Julia Despain for being our guest host and judge this weekend!

Flash Fiction Contest #8 Prompt: It was the end of our summer trip. We looked so young, skinny, and kind of like hostages.

Entry by Stephanie Adams-Hawkins

It doesn’t snow in the south- you should know that before moving here. If snow does arrive, it’s a mere dusting that melts away by mid-morning so it can be slick as snot by noon. 

It doesn’t snow as far south as Galveston though.
There are stories of snow in Galveston, and even of people freezing to death if you can imagine that. How does one freeze to death in Galveston, even pre global warming? Die of a blood born disease from mosquitoes? Sure. Die from humidity? Absolutely. Die from hurricane force winds and flooding? Perfectly feasible. But freezing? I mean, you’d really have to put your mind to it, right? There are so many easier ways to die here. 

That’s how I ended up here looking at this over exposed picture I keep tucked away for these moments of self-loathing, my only companion to a recurring pity party. But I wasn’t going to let myself go there. It was the end of our summer trip. We looked so young, skinny, and kind of like hostages. We may as well have been- arrested by our optimism of what life was going to be like. We thought we’d always have those bodies; those natural sun-kissed highlights rather than the streaks of wiry gray hairs that worry our scalps these days. But it doesn’t snow in the south so I’ve got that going for me. 

I don’t even know where those other girls are- somewhere floating in the Facebook ether, deciding whether to send that friend request because maybe thirty years is too soon. Well, except for Audrey. She didn’t make it out of this picture. No matter what happened in the hours after this pic was taken, my last and enduring memory of her is like this- stuck in this pose, forever twenty, never having to pull the loosening skin from her eyes to try and find the face that looked into the camera that day. 

I can’t find her anymore, that younger, more optimistic me. I see Audrey on every corner, at every beach, and she’s exactly the same- she’s actually as she looks in this picture. There’s a causeway that stretches from the island to the mainland, attaching Galveston to Texas. A beach in Texas has always sounded like a non-sequitur to me. Boots and beaches just don’t seem to go together despite what all those country songs try and say. But they don’t wear boots on Galveston, they wear island casual attire if they’re going somewhere important, and as little as possible if they’re going anywhere else. You can certainly die in anything you want. The dress code isn’t prohibitive to anywhere you’d like to go. 

But there are cold spots that you walk through and can’t shake. These are the places where Audrey lives now, where I’ve condemned her to spend her posthumous existence- at least until I die. I’m sure her parents see her differently and let her memory live on more dignified up north where it snows enough for Bing Crosby to convince you that a white Christmas is more than wishful thinking. No, her parents would surely be dead by now, so her memory is left to me. I seriously doubt the other girls think of her at all, having been counseled to not dwell on the tragedies of that summer so very long ago. But I’ll stay here with her and miss another winter that has the decency to let you shiver and hug your coat around your shoulders. Besides, any semblance of winter allows me the only respite from a perpetual summer that holds me hostage in this faded picture. Freezing wouldn’t be such an embarrassing death after all.

This week is our Pass or Pages feedback reveals! Stop by every day to pick up tips on your query letter and get to know our agent judges' individual tastes!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #8

For this installment of our flash fiction contest, we have a guest host and judge! Say hello to Julia Despain.

Hi Julia

If this is your first time joining us, check out more about the contest here.

Here is your prompt:

It was the end of our summer trip. We looked so young, skinny, and kind of like hostages.

You must include the prompt somewhere inside your story. Julia has chosen 750 words as the maximum story length. You have until noon EST on Sunday to enter the contest. Don't forget to include your name as you'd like it on your winner badge, and your twitter handle if you have one! Winner will be announced Sunday night whenever there's a break in the football game. Go Broncos!
(You can still enter if you're a Patriots fan. I GUESS.)

Annnnnnnnd, go!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cover Reveal: PARASITE by KT Hanna

Hello, everyone! Operation Awesome is excited to be participating in the cover reveal for the third and final installment of KT Hanna's "Domino Project" series. Let's get right to the gorgeousness!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Using Personality Tests to develop characters

Raise your hand if you've ever taken a personality test.

Oh, good, we found the one thing everyone has in common.

There are many different personality tests out there; explaining our different quirks and tendencies is rather a popular thing. Most tests claim that knowing your individual type is key for anticipating how you will deal with stress, how you might best achieve success, or even what path to take to happiness.

I've certainly taken a few myself; I suppose it's due to my narcissistic streak: I like knowing things about myself.

Narcissism aside, though, a lot of people advocate using personality tests to help writers learn more about their characters. I've never done so myself, because I couldn't really see the point. So what if my character is an INFJ or an ESTJ?

As I was reading Crafting Unforgettable Characters, by K. M. Weiland, I stumbled (with my brain, not my feet) on the word enneagram. Weiland mentions it in passing as she describes techniques for fleshing out characters. But I'd never heard of it before, and she included a handy link, so I checked it out.

The link did not take me to the official enneagram website (you can find it here), but instead to a page on Laurie Campbell's website that covered creating fatal flaws in characters. She explained the enneagram types, and then went on even further to explain how knowing their types could create conflict between characters. It was absolutely fascinating. I always think of using personality tests to learn about positive traits, but this opened my eyes even further--knowing the flaws inherent in personality types helps generate conflict, which is crucial to a story.

Maybe this is all obvious to you guys, but it was revolutionary to me. I will definitely use it in the future when I work out character details.

What are your favorite character personality tools?

Friday, January 15, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2015 Updates! How You Doin'?

From NaNoWriMo: I wrote a novel! Now What?

I had to pull it out of my rear end, but I finished National Novel Writing Month 2015 with a complete novella.

Mine's an allegory about the end of the world. What did you write about?

And how is that project doing today? Have you looked at it since November 30th?

I purposely haven't! But now it's January and this is the month to take the next steps for me.

My first steps are to...

1. Print the whole thing out.

2. Smile at it.

3. Get a cuppatea and lie down in bed with it, pen in hand. 

4. Make little notes in the margins. Correct typos. 

5. Set it aside.

6. Move notes to the computer copy. 

7. Start revision. 

How about you? Have you already landed an agent or publisher for your NaNo project? Or are you just about to dust it off, like me?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Year's Resolution for Writers

I love making New Year's resolutions. I am not so great at the keeping them part, but boy do I love envisioning all the amazing things I'll do in the new year. Usually by now my resolve to keep my resolutions has faltered. If you're like me, I hope this serves as a resolve-booster for you!

My resolutions are often nebulous ideas, such as "work out more" or "be more serious about writing," which I think is why I fail to keep them. Let's be real, if I go for a run once in 2016, I will achieve the "work out more" goal. But it won't help me change my life in a meaningful way, which is what I'd like my resolutions to do.

Possibly the one resolution that every writer makes is this one: Write more.

This is a good resolution, but it's vague (and as writers know, vague is bad). We need to be more specific. Do you want to be more consistent and write every day, even if it is a scant amount of words? Or do you want to increase your output, and say, finish two first drafts this year instead of one? Either way, make it measurable, and then find a way to measure it! Scrivener has great internal tracking tools. Accountability buddies are also great.

Writing more, editing more, querying more, self-publishing more--all of these are excellent goals to strive toward. The world needs more stories. So, writers, let's make our resolutions quantifiable, measurable, and the kinds of things that will transform us in 2016 into the writers we want to be.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pass or Pages Entry Window is now closed!

We are so thankful to everyone that entered this round of Pass or Pages. Winners of the random drawing will have their entries passed on to the agents, and will be notified by a member of the Operation Awesome team via e-mail by Friday afternoon. The winning entries will be posted the week of January 25th with the agent feedback, one entry per day. Stop by that week to get insight on how these agents look at queries and first pages!

If you entered and were not selected for agent feedback, the Operation Awesome team will do a query critique for you! E-mail by Sunday the 17th to let us know if you want to take us up on the offer.

We will do another round of Pass or Pages in the spring, with another genre/category. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 11, 2016

PASS OR PAGES entry form!

We are now accepting entries for January's PASS OR PAGES contest! Check out the full rules and list of participating agents HERE! Remember, this month's contest is ONLY for authors of Adult Mystery or Thriller novels! Entry window closes at 7pm Eastern time on Wednesday January 13th.

The winning entries will be posted the week of January 25th with the agent feedback, one entry per day. Stop by that week to get insight on how these agents look at queries and first pages!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #7 Winner

Whoo! Happy new year! Goofy fiction and a speculative twist--you're after my heart, aren't you?

Flash Fiction Contest #7 Prompt: Buying a new vehicle

Entry by Taryn Skipper

“I'll miss her fiercely,” Emiline lamented, her hand caressing the worn rivets along the tarnished brass hull of the once-magnificent landship.

“We have no choice,” Harrington reminded her. “She's served her purpose, fought a good fight, and now she's fetched a full purse.” Emiline was sentimental for a warrior, but Harrington had abandoned all but logic long ago.

“Not full for long,” Emiline countered, glancing toward a battered airship- the lone survivor of the First Defense. “This relic's overpriced. I understand it's not the merchants' war, but why must they lance our pockets so.” She crumpled to the sand, grieved by much more than prices and overwhelmed by the precipice upon which their clan's existence balanced.

Carmen rested a tiny hand on Emiline's armored shoulder. “You can do this Emi. You're the only one left in this hemisphere who can pilot an airship like this, and we've already paid dearly. Conrad would have wanted-”

“I know,” Emiline cut in, tears slipping down her resolute face. “I just need a moment to mourn. We've lost so much, and everything we've gained is because that landship held us together.”

Harrington signed the merchants' documents, finalizing the trade. Engineered to run with perfect efficiency utilizing minimal puffs of steam, the last working airship took to the sky, and Emiline's embodied memories shrunk below.

The landship was scrapped for parts long before the clan's Final Offensive ran the enemy into the heavens forever, but it sailed on immortal in the hearts of grateful generations.


Thank, everyone, for stopping by and reading!

We've got a ton of stuff coming up on the blog this month. #PassorPages entries are open tomorrow through Wednesday, so if you're querying a mystery/thriller and are brave enough to open yourself up to agent feedback, please enter! Our next #OAFlash Fiction contest is the 22nd to the 24th, and the following Monday will be the agents' feedback on the #PassorPages entries. Finally, on February 1st, several operatives will gab about our January #OABookClub book of the month--and it's not too late for you (YES, YOU!) to get started on Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to join in the conversation.

I really enjoyed the shorter 250 word stories this week. Whether or not you entered, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #7

Happy New Year!

Thanks for stopping by!

The end of last year saw a downtick in participation, but I hope that was due to the holiday season. I know I cut things off my "to do" list and I still felt swamped. I also got some feedback that my word counts seemed a bit high. My thinking was that if I gave you 750 words, you could use one or two or two hundred, up to the total amount, but I can see where that might be overwhelming. So for this year, I'm going to cut back, keep it short--really challenge you guys.

So! New year, new prompts, new excitement!

If this is your first time joining us, check out more about the contest here. Remember: my preferences are speculative fiction and stuff that gives me the feels; however, this is your story and you do what you want with it.

When you're ready for it, here's the prompt:

Flash Fiction Prompt For Friday, January 8, 2016

When posting, remember to include your name and your Twitter handle.

I look forward to reading your words.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Convention Basics: Five Tips to Make Your Book Stand Out

Please welcome today's guest blogger, author A.P. Fuchs who has some great tips for making your book and you stand out at conventions.
* * * * *

With so many writers these days focusing all their marketing efforts on-line, they’re putting themselves in a corner and limiting their exposure. Off-line sales are where the bread and butter is at if you play your cards right.

I’m talking conventions, which are basically glorified book signings.

Since 2007, I’ve been tabling at Central Canada Comic Con here in Winnipeg, a giant comic book convention. This show is also a big part of my paycheck, and my books fit right in because I write nerdy stuff like monster stories, superhero fiction and sci-fi.

A lot has been learned about having a successful show over the years. Here are some basics to get you started:

1. Display 

Have an eye-catching display. When competing against so many other booths and tables, you need to stand out. Bring a tablecloth because not all shows provide them. Use signage, big ones, like 11”x17” set up on stands so folks catch sight of your book’s cover or what the deal of the day is. Want to really stand out? Get a big banner printed up, one you can put behind you. This can display your name and what you do. It can feature your book covers, a web address. Lots of options.

By all means, lay your books flat if you want, but if you prop them up on book stands, all the better. It raises them above the table and draws the eye. Simple picture frame stands work fine. I use iPad ones because they compact better for transport.

Have a series? Lay them out in order of reading.

Write in multiple genres? Organize them as such on the table. Makes it easier to direct the customer to what’s what.

2. Pricing 

Big sales point. Offer convention-only pricing. I do ten dollars a novel, five bucks a novella. I make sure the customer knows the convention is the only place to get the deal. Get my stuff at a store or on-line and you’ll pay more. Everyone likes saving money.

You can also bundle your books. Have a series? Instead of three books at ten beans each, how about three for twenty-five? You can also do a buy-two-get-one-free thing. Whatever works for you provided you come out in the black all things considered.

3.  Book Stock

Better to bring more books than necessary. Nothing worse than selling out and having someone want something. With time and experience, you’ll learn your top sellers and will stock up accordingly. For a first-time show, I recommend at least fifteen copies of each title. If you only have one book out, bring at least twenty.

4. Miscellaneous Items

Scatter bookmarks and business cards around your table. If someone doesn’t buy something, at least you can send them off with a card for a potential after sale.

5. You

Be courteous, be nice, give the customer the time of day. Don’t be a fake. Answer their questions honestly. Be active. Don’t squirrel yourself away behind your table. Say hi to people as they walk past. Smile. And, please, don’t do the lonely-author thing where you sit there staring at folks, the look in your eyes saying, “Please come talk to me.” Just be cool. Relax. With time and experience, you’ll find what works for you in your personable approach. Ultimately, be yourself. This isn’t a show.

There’s so much to expand on regarding the above, but space doesn’t allow it. Why not sound off in the comments below and exchange tips and tricks with your fellow authors? I’ll tune in when I can and do the same.

About the author: 

A.P. Fuchs is the author of around thirty-five books, a plethora of short stories and comics, and has a thing for a certain ferment hops-based drink. His weekly newsletter, The Canister X Transmission, goes out Saturdays and is all about writing, publishing, marketing and book stuff. You get a free novelette upon signup at His main website is

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Cover Reveal: Treasure at Lure Lake, by Shari L. Schwarz

Today we are excited to help share the cover of Treasure at Lure Lake, by Shari L. Schwarz. I remember seeing Shari's book in Twitter pitch parties, and even an Operation Awesome contest! I'm so excited that it's found a home.

When twelve-year-old Bryce stumbles upon a secret treasure map in his grandpa's barn loft, he doesn't mean to steal it or unearth a painful family secret. He's determined to find what's hidden even if it means lying to Grandpa.

As Bryce, his big brother, Jack, and Grandpa backpack to his cabin, sibling rivalry clouds the brothers' judgment, and all Bryce's plans for an epic adventure go downriver. The boys must work together to survive the dangers of the wilderness, and each other. But when a climbing accident leaves Bryce unconscious and hanging between life and death, their family's secret may never see the light of day... and Jack may not be strong enough to rescue them both.

Treasure at Lure Lake will be published on April 12th by Cedar Fort Books. Shari Schwarz lives in Colorado with her husband and their four boys. Treasure at Lure Lake is her debut and reflects her love for a good adventure story and for hiking and camping in the Northern Colorado Rockies.

Shari is hosting a Kindle Fire giveaway on her blog in honor of the cover reveal. Enter by January 8th!

Preorder Treasure at Lure Lake here:


Barnes & Noble

Monday, January 4, 2016

Pass or Pages Official Contest Rules and Agent Panel

We hope our teaser post in December got you excited about Pass or Pages, a new query contest from Operation Awesome.

This contest features feedback on queries and first pages from a panel of agents. Before jumping into the rules, let's meet our panel of judges!

Caitie Flum, Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency
Caitie Flum joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a BA in English with a concentration in publishing studies. Caitie interned at Hachette Book Group and Writers House. She was an Editorial Assistant then Coordinator for Bookspan, where she worked on several clubs including the Book-of-the-Month Club, The Good Cook, and the Children's Book-of-the-Month Club.

Mark Gottlieb, Trident Media Group
Mark Gottlieb’s focus on publishing began at Emerson College, where he was a founding member of the Publishing Club, later its President, overseeing its first publication and establishing the Wilde Press. After graduating with a degree in writing, literature and publishing, Mark began his career with the Vice President of Berkley Books (Penguin), working with leading editors.
His first position at the Trident Media Group literary agency was in foreign rights, selling the books of clients around the world. Mark later worked as Executive Assistant to Robert Gottlieb, Chairman of Trident, with responsibility for organizing/managing diverse authors and their complex business transactions. He next assumed the position of audio rights agent. Since Mark has managed the audio rights business, the annual sales volume has more than doubled. Mark showed great initiative and insight in identifying talented writers.
In passing the Audio Department's torch, Mark is building his own client list of writers. He is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available to Trident. Since that time he has ranked as high as #1 in Agents on in Overall Deals.

Lisa Abellera, Kimberley Cameron & Associates
Lisa Abellera joined Kimberley Cameron and Associates in 2013 with a background in management, marketing, and finance. She has studied creative writing, design and business, earning her B.A. in Strategic Management from Dominican University of CA and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco. 
Lisa had a successful career in the corporate world before joining the world of publishing. After editorial internships with an independent press and Kimberley Cameron & Associates, she now follows her true passion for books and writing. She leverages her business and marketing expertise to help authors navigate the complexities of publishing. She is excited to develop talented authors and help advance their careers.
She is actively building her client list with both debut and established authors. She is looking to form long-term, collaborative relationships with writers who are committed to putting forth their best work.

Dr. Uwe Stender, Triada US Literary Agency
Literary Agent Dr. Uwe Stender is a Full Member of the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives). He is interested in all kinds of commercial fiction, especially Young Adult, Middle Grade, Mysteries, and Women's Fiction. He is also interested in all kinds of non-fiction projects. But surprise him, his tastes are eclectic, and he may just love what you wrote!
His favorite five novels right now are: Eleanor And Park, How It Went Down, Code Name Verity, High Fidelity, and The Big Sleep.

Contest Rules:
For this round of Pass or Pages we will only be accepting Adult Mysteries/Thrillers. For future rounds we will feature other genres/categories.
So if you've written a mystery or thriller for adults, and it's complete and polished, read on!

This contest is for people looking for feedback on their query letter and first page. It would be ideal for someone who is about to start the query process, or who has already begun but isn't getting requests for more pages.

On January 11th at 7am EST we'll open the submission window. You'll fill out a form here on the blog with all the pertinent information (contact info for us, query and first 250 words for the agents). Please stay under the 250 word limit for the first page--going over 250 words will cause your entry to be disqualified. The submission form will be live until the end of the day January 13th. Please don't "personalize" the query for the agents or include your bio paragraph, but other than that, treat it as you would a normal query letter. Include your manuscript's word count and title in your query. Comp titles are welcome if you were planning on using them in your regular query letter.

You are welcome to enter any other query contest (such as Sun vs Snow) whether or not you are chosen for our feedback panel.

A random selector tool will choose five entries to be given to the agents. Operation Awesome reserves the right to disqualify entries if they don't fall within the genre guidelines, or if they fail to follow any of the other rules. Romantic Suspense will not be included in our definition of Mystery/Thriller for the purpose of this contest. Entrants selected for agent feedback will be informed by January 15th.

The winning entries with agent commentary will be posted on Operation Awesome the week of January 25th, one entry each day. If you aren't comfortable with having your entry (which will be anonymous) shared on the blog, please don't enter Pass or Pages!

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments or feel free to tweet @reynoldstribe.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 New Releases We're Excited About

Happy New Year!

If you have "read more books" on your list of New Year's resolutions, we're here today to help you out. Here's some books that we're highly anticipating this year!

January 2016

The Rogue Retrieval by Dan Koboldt
Magic! Both the real AND the illusion kind.

February 2016

Morning Star [Red Rising #3] by Pierce Brown
Because I have to know how Darrow's saga ends.

Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney
I have an ARC of this one sitting on my to-read shelf and am looking forward to reading this fantasy about magical psychics going after a murderer.

Reaping Angel [Fallen Redemption #2] by S.L. Saboviec
Our very own Samantha Saboviec's sequel to Guarding Angel is releasing this February! If you haven't read the first one, now's the time to catch up so you're ready for this novel that blends a rich world of supernatural angels and demons within real-world historical events across the world.

A Gathering of Shadows [A Darker Shade of Magic #2] by V.E.Schwab
To be honest, I might wait on this one until the third book comes out in 2017 because I liked how the first book wrapped everything up and am a bit afraid of this one being a cliffhanger. Regardless, I'm highly anticipating both books in this gorgeous fantasy series.

March 2016

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
I love the Mortal Instruments books, and I don't care who knows it.

April 2016

The Raven King [The Raven Cycle #4] by Maggie Steifvater
If you haven't read the books of The Raven Cycle, now's a great time to start them, as this one will be the final book in this YA series that follows a quintet of friends as they search out the mythological Raven King. Oh, and one of them has been told that if she kisses her true love, he'll die.

Emerge by Tobie Easton
She's a CP of one of my CPs, so that makes us CP cousins? I don't know, but suffice it to say I am really happy for her and looking forward to the release.

May 2016

The Rose and the Dagger [The Wrath and the Dawn #2] by Renee Ahdieh
This sequel to Renee Ahdieh's debut YA fantasy will wrap up the series and determine the fate of Shahrzad and her husband, the cursed Caliph of Khorasan. I'm looking forward to finding out more about the magic in this world and the magic carpet!

Lies, Damned Lies, and History [Chronicles of St. Mary's #7] by Jodi Taylor
I'm a huge fan of this funny, quirky, anything-goes time travel series. One of my favorite things about it is that each book is self-contained enough that I can pick up each new book as it comes out without having to go back and reaquaint myself with all the previous ones.

Date TBA...

The Worst Thing About Saving the World by Christopher Healy
As a fan of Healy's "League of Princes" series (if you haven't read them, check it out - they're hilarious!) I'm looking forward to this stand-alone about a kid dealing with what comes next after saving the world from aliens.

Books NOT released in 2016 that we'll be reading...

Copperhead [Ironskin #2] by Tina Connolly (pub 2013)
I recently read Ironskin (thanks to the author for sending me a copy!) and can't wait to dive back into this immersive historical fantasy. The first book was a retelling of Jane Eyre, and this one follows what was a minor character from the previous book, so I'm very interested to see where it goes.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (pub 1862)
I am going to read this book by the end of 2016. That's 3.3 pages per day. My husband told me that I couldn't read them to Morrigan as her bedtime story, which is pretty harsh, don't you think? Well, anyway, hold me to this, everyone!

The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz (pub 2014-2015)
The Original Sinners series is craaaaazy. I could not put it down. This next set all came out in 2015, and I was waiting for them all to release before I got started on them. For me, the beginning of 2016 is gonna be steamy. *wink wink wink*