Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Meet Heather Young in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

1- Have you ever been in a Minnesota winter?

I haven’t. My family spent a month every summer at White Earth Lake, in the Detroit Lakes region of Minnesota, and my descriptions of the Minnesota summer in The Lost Girls draw on those memories. For the winter scenes, I relied on my cousin, who is raising his three children on a lake near Bemidji, MN, to tell me about his (very cold!) experiences.

2- Soda, pop, coke, or other -- what word do you use for that drink? Which would Justine and Lucy use?

I use soda, like the native Marylander I am, but when we went to White Earth I called it pop, which was what all my Midwestern relatives called it, and the word Lucy would surely use. Poor Justine, in her desperation to belong in every place she lived as a child, would use whatever word the locals used wherever she happened to be.

3- What kind of law did you practice, and has it helped you to write your book?

I practiced antitrust law. That doesn’t sound like it would have much to do writing a novel, but I do think my law career did help me write this book. What you’re essentially doing as a lawyer is telling your client’s story, trying to make them relatable, understandable, and, if necessary, forgivable. It’s much the same in fiction writing, especially when your characters are as flawed as mine are!

4- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Lucy is a world-class rock skipper, but Matthew is even better.

5- Is there any diversity we can look forward to in your book?

Yes. The hunting lodge at the lake is owned by a half-Chippewa family: a white man, a Chippewa woman, and their two biracial sons. This family has an uneasy relationship with the prosperous white families that summer there in 1935, and the boys, Matthew and Abe, figure very prominently in the story of what happened to Emily. They also play big roles in Justine’s mother’s story and in Justine’s story in 1999.

6- Do you feel that your setting is a character onto itself? Why or why not?

Absolutely, and that was my intent. The lake and the lake house are so steeped in this family’s history that they become sentient, sorrowful observers of the tragedies that unfold there, and I used a lot of anthropomorphic descriptions to try to make them feel that way to readers. (The house, for example, is “slump-shouldered,” and “seemed to lean forward, as though the effort of holding itself up had made it weary.”) Many of my favorite writers, like Marilynne Robinson and Annie Proulx, make their settings into characters. It’s something I think has the power to deeply enrich a story, so it was important to me to bring this Minnesota locale to life.

7- Have you enjoyed being a part of the Debutante Ball?

I’ve loved it! Before joining the Ball, I knew no one who had actually published a book (except for my writing teachers). It’s a confusing, stressful, exciting, and wonderful journey, with wild highs and crashing lows, and going through it with these four women gave me an emotional support system that helped me navigate it with (most of) my sanity intact. Plus they’re delightful people whom I’m now thrilled to count as friends!

8- Does your family have a strong bond, and did that influence the book?

My family has a very strong bond. I had a near-idyllic, middle-class upbringing in the D.C. suburbs with two loving parents, a sister, a brother, and none of the tensions that poison the Evans family. However, I lost my brother to cancer when he was only 30. That experience did influence The Lost Girls, especially the story of Lucy and how she and her family cope with their grief when Emily disappears.

9- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

I love compelling characters, so if I read a blurb and think a book has people inside it that I’d like to get to know, it’s coming home with me no matter what the genre!

10- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

After spending six years writing this book, I was going to see it published one way or another, but I also knew I’d rather go the traditional route if I could. I’ve met many people who are self-published and love the autonomy and bigger slice of the pie that comes with it, but I’m not comfortable with promotion and marketing, and my social media skills are an embarrassment to my children (I still don’t get the difference between Instagram and Snapchat). So I’m glad my agent was able to find a home for The Lost Girls at William Morrow.

11- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Why yes, here’s a blurb:

A haunting debut novel that examines the price of loyalty, the burden of regret, the meaning of salvation, and the sacrifices we make for those we love, told in the voices of two unforgettable women linked by a decades-old family mystery at a beautiful, decaying lake house.

In the summer of 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys her mother, who spends the rest of her life at the lake house, hoping in vain that her favorite daughter will walk out of the woods. Emily’s two older sisters stay, too, each keeping her own private, decades-long vigil for the lost child.

Sixty years later Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before she dies, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person to whom it might matter: her grandniece, Justine.

For Justine, the lake house offers a chance to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the stable home she never had. But it’s not the sanctuary she hoped for. The long Minnesota winter has begun. The house is cold and dilapidated, the frozen lake is silent and forbidding, and her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more than he’s telling about the summer of 1935.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives with designs on her inheritance, and the man she left behind launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house steeped in the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.

And here’s a bio:

Heather Young grew up in Maryland, but she's also strongly rooted in the Midwest: her parents grew up in small Iowa towns, met at the University of Iowa, and brought their children to Minnesota every summer. It's this emotional connection that Heather drew upon to create the characters, events, and settings in THE LOST GIRLS.

Heather received an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars in 2011. She lives just outside San Francisco with her two teenaged children and her husband. When she's not writing, she loves biking, hiking, skiing, and reading books she wishes she'd written.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Writing Buddy 101--Guest Post by Mae Respicio

There was a very brief period in my life when I decided to try running as a sport. As a non-runner it was hard for me to find the find the discipline to stick with it, so I enlisted a friend as a Jogging Buddy. Our goal was to be partners-in-support, attempting to get up at the crack of dawn each week to jog together.

We gave it a good show but in the end, while we had pictured ourselves doing a little more of this:

More often than not we’d end up at a coffee shop doing this:   

Alas, I’m not a runner. But I did learn one invaluable tool that I now use steadily in my writing life:

A Buddy.

I’ve had the same Writing Buddy for many years now, my friend Natali, a talented writer whom I first met when we were PEN Emerging Voices Fellows together.

We’re not critique partners (which is a little bit different of a thing, though still necessary to the writing life)—we rarely exchange pages. Our buddy-ship is purely for one thing:

To hold each other accountable to our individual writing goals.

Now I’m sure there are lots of variations on the Writing Buddy, but the way my buddy and I work is that we have a weekly Writing Date to write together. Although it’s probably not what you think—we live on opposite ends of our state so we don’t actually sit in the same room physically writing with each other.

Our dates go something like this:

*She calls me on the phone (same day and time each week).

*We talk briefly about our individual writing goal for that date. It could be anything from crafting a new scene to revising old pages to brainstorming, to even more pragmatic and boring stuff like entering handwritten revisions into the computer.

*After we state our goals we say good luck and hang up; I set a timer.

*When the timer goes off and date’s officially over, I call her back.

*We ask: “How’d it go?”

This is the part that I find the most helpful—re-connecting after our date to find out if we achieved the goal/s we had set. A creative check-in.

Sometimes I’m successful and it feels really good to share (“I wrote a whole new scene!”)

Other times, the date doesn’t go as planned (“I didn’t do anything but stare at a blank screen the Whole. Entire. Time.”) This one actually happens more than I’d like, but my awesome buddy always replies: “It’s okay, at least you showed up.”

Whatever we individually accomplished, our date always ends with genuine and positive encouragement. The next week, we do it all over again.

Finding a balance with writing, as you know, can be so hard… we all have our obligations. While I’m trying to revise my upcoming MG novel I’m also balancing parenting plus a full-time job, so my writing routine’s not always clockwork. Still, having a buddy to check-in with regularly gets me closer to my goals, even if it’s just baby steps. And we rarely cancel on each other—I know that she’s counting on me to check-in with and vice-versa, which makes the “holding yourself accountable” part something that begins to solidly happen.

Having a Writing Buddy has helped me:

*Learn how to set specific writing goals

*Feel like I’m not the only one attempting this solitary endeavor

*Feel no real pressure to write, just to “show up” (which is still a tremendously important part of the process in creating a writing habit!)

So if you’re in need of some encouragement and a way to stick to (and build on) your goals, I highly recommend finding yourself a buddy. Once you get going you might feel something like this:

What are the tools you use to hold yourself accountable to your writing goals? Please share in the comments!


Mae Respicio is author of the upcoming MG novel, A HOUSE LIKE THIS (Spring 2018, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House); her musings on parenthood have appeared in a variety of publications including The Bigger the Better the Tighter the Sweater: 21 Funny Women on The Bigger the Better, the Tighter the Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image, and Other Hazards of Being Female (Seal Press). She’s not a good runner, but she does love a good donut. Follow her road to publication on Twitter!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Rejection Recovery Playlist

I love putting together playlists for projects, but also for inspiration and encouragement. I've shared a few on my personal blog, but I thought it was time I shared some here. This is my Get Back Up playlist for use after rejections, bad reviews, harsh critiques, and anything else you need encouragement for. This is a varied mix of mellow sounds and dance music, including David Bowie, Imagine Dragons, and PSY. There are a couple geeky fanvids in there too (such as Farscape and Doctor Who). I hope you like it!

What are your favorite feel good songs?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #19

For this round of our #OAFlash fiction contest, please use the sentence somewhere, anywhere, in your entry. Rules can be found here.

Flash Fiction Prompt For Friday, August 26, 2016

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

Have fun and come back Sunday night to find out the winner!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cover Reveal: FAITHFUL, by Michelle Hauck

Today Michelle Hauck and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover for FAITHFUL, book two in the Birth of Saints series which releases November 15, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to win a SIGNED copy of book 1 GRUDGING!

On to the reveal! 

Title: FAITHFUL (Birth of Saints #2)

Author: Michelle Hauck
Pub. Date: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Formats: eBook
ISBN: 9780062447173
Find it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Goodreads

Religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck's Birth of Saints series!

A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.

Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?

On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.

What they find instead is an old woman.

But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.

Exclusive Excerpt!

Not for the first time, Claire reconsidered her decision to stay when Ramiro had asked her. She’d lingered out of curiosity—and truthfully because it felt good to be needed—but they didn’t need her now with the Northern army defeated. She could return to the swamp and away from so many people. Despite her hopes of friends and community, she felt awkward here. Reason said she’d get used to their ways, but being around so many folk made her want to hide. Everything pressed down. The walls of the tent shrunk, pinning her in, and smothering her. It became hard to breathe.
She reached for a fresh strip of cloth, only to have her hand shake. She snatched the material and began to roll it, trying to shut out everything else, including her own doubts.
Before she could find a semblance of peace, though, someone shouted. Ladies screamed. Claire looked over her shoulder at the noise. A brown-bearded man in a poncho and a floppy hat ran in her direction. “My family is dead, because of the evacuations. Because of you.”
Claire gasped. He seemed to be talking to Beatriz, then his gaze found Claire.
“Witch!” His outstretched hand suddenly held a long butcher knife. “Witch! Stay away from us! Murderer! Abomination! Die!”
Fronilde dropped to the ground, but Claire couldn’t move. Surprise robbed her brain of a Song to stop him. Even the words of the Hornet Tune, which she knew as well as her name, deserted her. The man closed as everyone scrambled out of his way. Then Beatriz sprang from her chair to stand over Claire, holding up her hand. The tall, black-lace mantilla atop her head waved like a flag. “Stop.”
Something about the authority in the First Wife’s voice—or maybe her simple resistance instead of cringing or scrambling away—brought the man up short, making him pause for a moment. Just the moment the bodyguard needed to crush the lunatic to the floor and overpower him, wrestling free the knife. More guards came running from outside.
Breath rushed back in Claire’s lungs. Beatriz sniffed and touched a spot on her chest over her heart and then her forehead and stomach areas. “Imbecile. He didn’t know who he was dealing with.”

About Michelle: 

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.

Her epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. She's repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Giveaway Details:
2 winners will receive a signed  of GRUDGING, US Only.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Meet Kenneth Logan in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

1- Having lived in Vermont, do you have any fun maple syrup stories or "leafer" pictures to share with us?

In my first year working in a school, a seventh grade kid who was a total delinquent brought me some “home-made” maple syrup in a mason jar. I was touched. And then one of my colleagues warned me not to eat anything that any of the kids brought in claiming to be “home-made.” Fortunately, I don’t like maple syrup anyway, so it wasn’t a big loss.

2- You're a man who wrote about someone being gay. So let me ask you a very important question... what's your astrological sign?
"Hi, I'm Alecia. I'm a Virgo. I'm 31... I'm gay. Actually, I'm not, but that's not important. My point is, I would like, in the world, the same boring response that I get from, "Hi, I'm a Virgo" I would like "Hi, I'm gay" to elicit the same response. - P!nk. :

Aries. I’m friends with a lot of Geminis and Virgos. Explanation anyone?

3- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Hawken has piercing blue eyes and a scratchy laugh.

4- Did our world's need for diverse books, such as those with gay main characters, play a factor when you wrote this book?

Yeah, it did, but the idea for the book—a kid who writes letters he never sends—came to me about ten years ago, when there weren’t so many LGBT YA books out there. There are many, many more books with gay characters out there now than there were way back when.

5- Have you been playing Pokémon Go? If so, have you "caught them all" yet?

The Onion ran a helpful FAQ article about Pokémon Go. Anticipating my first question, it asked: “What is a Pokémon?” And the answer, as I suspected, was, “This is not for you.”

6- What was the inspiration behind the alligator/ crocodile Pez-like dispenser on the cover of your book?

I was trying to think of something silly that a high school kid might carry around in his pocket. I’m not sure why I settled on a PEZ dispenser, but I’m pretty sure the gator really was inspired by the albino alligator that, at least at the time, lived at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. I didn’t have much say in the book’s cover design, but I did agree to the idea of the PEZ dispenser appearing on there.

7- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

The last two books I bought received a lot of awards and praise from professional reviewers. They were The Sellout by Paul Beatty and A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. They’re both incredible, but they’re not the kind of books that I’d recommend to anyone lightly. When I buy YA books, I usually buy them because a friend’s told me to read them.

8- On sites like Goodreads, how important do you feel that star ratings are, especially compared to reviews?

I’m not sure. I’m very new to Goodreads so I don’t know how it works or how much it influences what people choose to read.

9- If James Liddell were a cheese, what cheese would he be?

Brie, I suppose. He’s a lot softer on the inside than he looks on the outside.

10- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

My agent suggested we send my manuscript to a few of the big publishers, then try smaller publishers if no one bit. I’m still really grateful to my editor at HarperCollins for showing such interest in the book.

11- I hear that you cook. Do you have a favorite recipe to share with us?

You hear that I cook? Who have you been talking to? I’m a big fan of Mark Bittman’s old cooking blog “The Minimalist” in the New York Times. Here’s a version of one his very simple standbys:
Stir Fry Tofu
Heat a little bit of grapeseed oil in a pan. Sauté some minced some ginger and garlic for one minute. Add cubed extra-firm tofu and the white parts of scallions and cook for one minute more. Add the green parts of the scallions. Shower it all in some soy sauce. Cook a little more. Eat.

12- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Nothing else about me to share, thanks, but here are a couple of book recommendations: The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos and Skyscraping by Cordelia Allen Jensen. Also, I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve heard great things about The Movie Version by Emma Wunsch.

September Pass Or Pages Details

A great big thank you to the agents who participate in Pass Or Pages. Without them Pass Or Pages wouldn't be possible. For September's contest we have three great agents on our panel, and we're excited to hear their query tips.

In September, the category for Pass Or Pages will be YA Speculative Fiction. This includes science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism. Bring on your space operas, epic quests, and quirky, suburban oddyseys!

The important dates for this round are:
September 5: Agent announcement and recap of rules
September 12-14: Entry window open (via a form here on Operation Awesome)
September 26-30: Feedback reveals!

To learn more about Pass Or Pages, please take a look at the rules and previous feedback reveals.
Spread the word to your friends writing YA speculative fiction! We look forward to seeing your entries!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Cover Reveal: The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé by S. L. Saboviec

Welcome to the cover reveal for S. L. Saboviec's The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé, an urban fantasy stand-alone novel set in the world of her Fallen Redemption books.

But that’s not all—after you check out the cover, we’ve included details on how to enter an Epic Giveaway of a $1,200 Amazon gift card and twelve awesome SFF books!

tIPoSWR cover is by Clarissa of Yocla Designs, and you’re going to love it.
Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé, busy executive and less-than-stellar mother and wife, has a problem that only an exorcist can solve. Except she’s not precisely a devout Catholic parishioner any longer, and to gain assistance from the Church means telling a whopping lie of omission.

Fortunately, she discovers Father Angelo Ambrosio, whose commitment to helping the afflicted means he’s willing to overlook the things Scarlet prefers to keep hidden. Unfortunately, his sordid past keeps him under a microscope with the bishop, who’s not so liberal in his views.

But the demon harassing Scarlet is relentless. It makes its motives clear: in a previous life, she struck a bargain, promising it her body on her fiftieth birthday. Now, she and Angelo must unravel the mystery surrounding her forgotten past in order to stop the possession by next week or risk losing her to the depths of Hell forever.

This stand-alone novel set in the Fallen Redemption universe extends the series to modern day. Enter a world where humans reincarnate, demons interfere in daily life, and the currents of fate carry us all to our destinies.

Add it on Goodreads here.

Get notified when it’s available for preorder in September by subscribing to S. L. Saboviec's newsletter here!

About the Author

Samantha grew up in a small town in Iowa but became an expat for her Canadian husband, whom she met in the Massive Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game Star Wars: Galaxies (before the NGE, of course). She holds a B.S. in Physics, which qualifies her to B.S. about physics and occasionally do some math for the sci-fi stories she concocts. Her dark, thought-provoking science fiction & fantasy contains flawed, relatable characters and themes that challenge the status quo.

Her short fiction has appeared in AE and Grievous Angel, and her debut novel received an honorable mention in the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

Website | Twitter
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Epic SFF Giveaway!

Samantha is one of the sponsoring authors for the Epic SFF Giveaway.

Enter to win a $1,200 Amazon gift card here!

Join the Facebook party when the winner is announced here!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Meet Heather Eagar in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

1- If you could go back in time, where and in what year would you travel to and why?

Such a hard question, but I think I would go back to the 1920s, right before we had television. It occupies so much time and distracts us from our relationships and what really matters.

2- Your reviews are detailed with information that helps parents and conservative readers make an informed choice about a book. Do you feel all books should have content labels (warning: contains L, S, and V)? How did you come to feel this way? Do you worry it might be used to restrict access to books, lead to more book burnings, or result in censorship?

This is such an interesting question, and I'm glad you asked it. I do believe that all books should have content labels, just as movies do. I actually just signed a contract with a new publishing company (Endever Publishing Studios) who will be including ratings on all of their books which I couldn't be more thrilled about.
Several years ago I had heard amazing things about a bestselling book, but hadn't had time to read it myself yet. I wanted to send it to my sister for her birthday, but knew she didn't like vulgarity, sex, etc in her books. I did my best to read the reviews and see if there was any mention of it, but ultimately just ordered it for her. She called me when she got it and told me that there was so much vulgarity in it, she couldn't read it. Not everyone has those preferences, but there are many who do. Just like we use ratings on movies to help determine which ones we will see (there are some movies I will watch with my husband, but not with my parents because of content), or ratings on video games to help us know which ones are appropriate for our kids, books are in need for content advisory labels.
I don't believe this will lead to censorship or restrict access to books--that isn't the point of a rating system. It isn't to tell us what books we can publish, but just as a service to the reader so they can make a more informed decision. How great would it be if a parent could flip over a book their child is reading and see right away what kind of content they are being exposed to? Then the parent could determine if it is appropriate for that child, or maybe if they should have open discussions about what they are reading.

3- What are your biggest goals as a writer?

Sometimes my biggest goal as a writer is to write, ha ha. I have 2 young kids and a husband in graduate school, so finding time to write can be quite challenging. Of course, I would love to be a New York Times Bestseller and all that, but if you know anything about the system, that isn't always in the writer's control. Honestly, when I started writing, I wanted to find a way to create a ratings system for books, but knew that you have to have influence for anyone to listen to you. Hopefully I can obtain that kind of influence one day.

4- If you were stranded on "the island" from LOST, what 3 items would you want to have with you?

My first "item" would be Jack, he's pretty handy, ha ha. #2 would be sunscreen (without it I'd be dead in a week). #3 a canteen so I could take my water on the go

5- Have you ever been to Salem?

Unfortunately, I haven't been to Salem. My dream is to be able to do a book signing there one day for Devil's Playground. But sadly, I had to rely on the internet to determine what it was like over 300 years ago.

6- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

My main character's distinguishing feature isn't necessarily odd by today's standards. But she has long, beautiful curly hair (everyone else in the village has straight hair), and she always has to hide it under her cap. She tries to sneak a few curly strands but gets reprimanded for it.

7- Is there any diversity we can look forward to in your book?

Although historically Salem was an all-white village (except for slaves/servants), there are many parallels to today. Elizabeth is a witch in a place where if she were to reveal her identity, she would be persecuted/killed. She hasn't done anything, she was just born that way. But judgments come from those who don't take the time to look past the label. Sound familiar? I have many readers who are able to relate to Elizabeth because of social judgments they deal with on a daily basis.

8- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

I read a lot of fiction when I'm reviewing books, but when considering purchasing a book, I actually tend to lean toward non-fiction. I gravitate toward books that will help me be a better/happier/more balanced person. If it is a timely subject for me, I am very likely to buy it.

9- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I went through the route of looking for an agent, and met some amazing people along the way who helped shape Devil's Playground into what it is today. And I'd still consider seeking an agent in the future, but I felt that a small press might be a good starting place for me. Unlike with bigger publishers, I had a say in what I wanted/didn't want on my cover. My editors made suggestions for my manuscript, but didn't ever require me to make the changes (though I nearly always did because my editors were AMAZING). It is an all-together more personal experience. Though they certainly don't have the marketing power than the bigger publishers have, it has been a positive experience for me.

10- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

A little about me: I currently live in Logan, Utah where I attempt to balance my love of writing with raising a husband and two kids. Devil's Playground is my debut novel, but it will not be my last. I am currently working on a sequel, as well as a YA contemporary comedy. I am also a book reviewer and you can find reviews for Middle-grade fiction through Adult novels on my website, If I had the time I would play racquetball everyday, as well as go hiking with my laptop on my back where I would then write my next novel on the mountaintop. Wishful thinking. :-)

Author Links:

As I mentioned before, my debut novel is DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND. It is YA Historical Fantasy and takes place during the Salem Witch Trials. It is currently available digitally, and will most likely be in print by the time this interview is posted (if not, very soon after)
Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Winters may be a witch, but she doesn’t know the first thing about magic—unless you count accidental bouts of spontaneous combustion. Elizabeth’s father, a wizard himself, has forbidden the use of her powers for her own protection, but when accusations of witchcraft start flying through Salem Village, she wishes she was more prepared.
Despite her lack of magical knowledge, Elizabeth appoints herself to save innocent women from the demise the village has in store for them. Elizabeth finds, however, that she is not the hero Salem needs her to be.
She meant to save them. She cursed them instead.

Buy Links:
Barnes and Noble


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Resources for Writers

We here at Operation Awesome tend to blog about whatever floats our respective boats on any given day. If you like reading about writing every day, that's fantastic, but if you've come to our site to look for resources on a specific writing topic, it can be hard to navigate.

No more!

We created a tab called "Writing Resources" that serves as a compilation of our posts on a given subject. Want to know more about National Novel Writing Month? Just click the NaNo link! Need help getting started on a query letter? Click the querying link! It's pretty self-explanatory, to be honest, so go take a look for yourself!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Why a Day Off Can Make You a Better Writer

I once read an article about how the CEO of a large company takes a day just to think, maybe walk, do low-impact activities, but mostly think. There are many articles like this, and I think more creatives should follow the pattern.

As writers, our 'work' is more like play and it's a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of concentration, planning, brainstorming, and you know, work. Since I entered the online writing community, I kept hearing the same advice about how writers succeed. Write. Write everyday. Write on the toilet. Write in your sleep. Eat, sleep, and breathe writing. Only then will you become a good writer. But not all advice works for all writers, and not all writers can write everyday.

Whether you're in the 'write everyday' camp or the 'write when I can steal a moment' camp, we can all agree on one thing: we need downtime. You can't write every moment, and you shouldn't. You need time to recharge, to stir up those brilliant ideas that keep the words flowing. You need time to read other writers' books. Even your dream job can cause burn-out if it's all you do.

Vacations from writing are okay. Taking a few weeks to read, to paint, do pottery, travel, and do anything else is fine as long as you can spare the time. If you're on a deadline, you might only be able to afford a day or even a few hours, but you should take it. Make time for thought and reflection, for turning over those plot problems and looking at them from all angles.

Most of our writing problems aren't solved by writing. Considering a scene, talking out a character concept with a friend, and stepping away from the keyboard awhile can help us avoid a lot of pitfalls in our final draft. We need to grant ourselves 'free' days to gain perspective.

Schedule yourself so your free day feels like a treat. If all your days are free days it won't seem so special, and you'll waste it. (Writing days are not free days.)

During your free day, do fun things, relax, but be sure to think productively over what the rest of your week will be like. (Hudson's Productive Thinking model might help with that) Inspire yourself with art, books, music, and especially your own project. Get yourself motivated so when you go back to the keyboard, you're ready to work. It'll be easier when you do.

So, give yourself a day off. Relax, have fun, but most of all, think.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #18

Time for another flash fiction contest. I want to hear your BIGGEST tales! Rules for our flash contest can be found here.

Flash Fiction Prompt For Friday, August 12, 2016

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

Have fun and come back Sunday night to find out the winner!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Meet Lauri Fortino in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Please welcome Lauri Fortino to the spotlight.

1- I LOVE Finley's bunny slippers. Do you have a pair of bunny slippers? Can you tell us more about how Finley got those?

In my unpublished picture book story Finley’s Fabulous Friendship, Finley is a frog with a rather large wardrobe and a wacky fashion sense. One of his favorite things to wear is his bunny slippers, which he wears with everything. My own slippers are quite boring compared to Finley’s. As a side note, Finley is the mascot of my blog Frog on a Blog.

2- Java is a fantastic name for a dog! How did he get the name? Do you have a pic to share with our puppy loving fans?

My husband Chris and I made a list of possible dog names before getting a dog. Since Chris is a huge coffee fan, we ended up narrowing the list down to either Java or Latte. After we adopted our little guy, Java was the name that just seemed to fit best. If left completely up to me, his name probably would have been Sniffles or Snickerdoodle, or maybe Happy like the dog in my children’s picture book The Peddler’s Bed. Here’s a picture:

3- It's almost your book-iversary. Congratulations. Can you hint about any progress on the next book?

I have several picture book manuscripts completed and many more in progress, but nothing yet under contract. I’m also working on a children’s chapter book. My goal this year is to find a literary agent to represent my work.

4- Are diverse friendships explored, mentioned, or encouraged in your book?

In The Peddler’s Bed, a friendship is formed between two characters of differing socioeconomic status, a well-dressed peddler and a penniless little old man. It is the peddler who is moved by the kindness and generosity shown him by the little old man, despite the old man’s humble circumstances.

5- Do you have a favorite Japanese anime?

My absolute favorite Japanese anime is Naruto, which is based on Masashi Kishimoto’s manga of the same name. I’ve been watching it for years. It’s the only television show I must watch each week. I can’t miss an episode!

6- What most motivates you to buy a new book?

Since I write picture books, they’re primarily what I read. I have quite a few in my personal collection. I buy new books written by author friends and authors that I follow. But what motivates me the most to buy is if I fall in love with a book. If I pick up a picture book from the library and just absolutely adore the story and the art, I’m likely to buy the book.

7- I see you took part in the #atozchallenge April A to Z blogging challenge 2015. Did you enjoy it, did you make new blogger friends, and will you take part again?

Yes, the A to Z blogging challenge was tons of fun! I discovered some interesting new blogs and gained a few new followers for mine. It was definitely a challenge to post everyday for an entire month, the longest stretch of time I’ve ever blogged. I hope to participate again in 2017.

8- What was the deciding factor in using an independent picture book publisher?

Since I don’t have an agent, and independent publishers are more likely to be open to unsolicited submissions, submitting to independent publishers is the best option for me. Ripple Grove Press was listed in the CBI newsletter in 2013 as a new publisher looking for submissions. I hadn’t submitted my work to a publisher in quite some time, so I decided to take a chance. I checked their website first to get an idea of what they might be looking for, and then decided to go ahead and submit.

9- How did artist Bong Redila get involved with your book project?

Bong was chosen by Ripple Grove Press to illustrate The Peddler’s Bed. Prior to contracting with Bong, Rob Broder, the President and Founder of RGP, and I discussed illustration style. Then Rob saw Bong’s work online, got in touch with him, and they met to discuss the project. Bong’s art enhances the story perfectly.

10- Pledging to donate one copy to a school or public library or to another organization that works to put books into the hands of children for every 100 sold is quite admirable. How did you come up with the idea?

I believe literacy is the jump-off point to success in all aspects of life. I thought donating copies of my book The Peddler’s Bed to these organizations would be a great way to help kids. I’m a big supporter of libraries and literacy organizations. Plus I want to share my book with as many children as possible.

11- Is the Syracuse Rescue Mission aware of the donated royalties?

I contacted the Rescue Mission and told them about my plan to donate a percentage of the royalties I earn on sales of The Peddler’s Bed. I’ve already sent one check and hope to send another soon. Even before I was published, I knew I wanted to contribute to a worthy cause. After The Peddler’s Bed was published, I did some research to find an organization in my community that I thought might be a good fit. The Syracuse Rescue Mission was an obvious choice.

12- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Excerpt from The Peddler’s Bed:
The peddler stopped his cart and climbed down from his seat.
"It's a fine day," he said.
"Truly," answered the little man, "and that's a fine bed you have there in your cart."

Lauri Fortino is the author of The Peddler’s Bed, a children’s picture book illustrated by Bong Redila and published by Ripple Grove Press. Besides writing picture books, Lauri works as a library assistant in her local public library. She has a degree in Library and Information Services. She is a strong supporter of library and literacy initiatives. She features a weekly Picture Books At The Library listing on her blog, Frog On A Blog, which also offers book reviews, author/illustrator interviews, and teacher’s resources. She enjoys spending time with her husband Chris and their dog Java at their home in Syracuse, NY.

Social Media:
Frog on a Blog:
Amazon Author Page:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday Museday tells a story

I've had a busy month. First my kids and I went down to visit my parents for 2 weeks. I had my audition for Jeopardy!. Then we went back East to visit my extended family for 2 weeks. You probably didn't notice I was gone because I scheduled all my posts in advance. Tricky!

My seven-year-old loves the pool at my parents' house, but insists on wearing a life preserver because he doesn't know how to swim. I told him we'd have to teach him how so he could feel safe in the ocean when we went to Maryland.

"The ocean?" He was very interested. Both he and his brother (age 4) were suddenly giving me all of their attention.

I took advantage of it, and told them all about seashells, boogie boarding, and salt water. I told them about the boardwalk at Ocean City, eating cotton candy and Boardwalk Fries, and playing mini-golf. They were spellbound.
For like, five minutes, which is a record for them.

Storytelling is powerful. When your characters choose to tell stories in your work, it likewise can be a powerful experience and an effective way to give backstory without feeling like an info dump.

Use it wisely. Use it well.

I've missed doing critiques this summer! If you'd like fresh eyes on your query letter or Twitter pitch, speak up in the comments! I'll choose a few commenters for critiques.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Motivation for Procrastinators

my actual motivational stones
I'm always on the lookout for motivational tools that I can get behind, something that can nudge me in the right direction without being a drill sergeant about it. I'd seen those pretty inspirational stones for sale before, but usually they cost more than I wanted to pay. So, when I found one at a thrift store for fifty cents (maybe even twenty-five) I picked it up. It was black and shiny and said "DREAM" in lovely white serif font. Now, I knew that a rock really couldn't inspire me that much... unless perhaps I kept it around my work area and looked at it all the time. So, I decided to set it in front of my keyboard and hope it would inspire me.

It was a lovely thought, but I didn't feel as inspired as I hoped I would. Eventually I realized a stone with the word "DREAM" on it, wasn't going to make me productive. I needed another word. I had to find another stone! I trolled Ebay (another wonderful way to spend a potentially-productive writing day) for such a stone, and eventually I found one. It was mottled white and said in no-nonsense depressed san-serif, "CREATE". This was it! I was sure that this stone, paired with my 'Dream' stone, would help me to finally see my goals through.

Guess what? It didn't. I still have those stones sitting in front of my keyboard, nudging at my conscious mind to DREAM and CREATE, but they mostly just make me feel guilty for not doing it.

This is a classic procrastination tactic, and I am a classic procrastinator. Did I really believe two stones would be all the catalyst I needed to launch into productive mode? No. Did I think it was more fun to search Ebay for more clutter I don't need than work on my current project? Yes. At least, at the time I did.

Procrastionation is an ugly, greedy, short-sighted mistress. It steals your time - time  you could be using to do the things you love. For me, the only way to beat procrastination is to remind myself on a regular basis what I really want and what I need to do to get there. The rest is about breaking down those To-Dos, and scheduling them, which I'm really bad at.

I seem to work best spontaneously. I spontaneously clean, spontaneously cook, spontaneously write. The key to getting myself to be productive a little more often is to psych myself up. Anything I want to do, when I think about it and how much I love it, or how great I'll feel after it's done, I become inspired to do it.

Here are the tips I've read that actually work for me:
  1. Encourage yourself. Remind yourself how fun whatever you want to accomplish is.
  2. Be passionate. If you aren't that into it, you're not going to want to do it. Find your passion for it, whatever it is. 
  3. Imagine the goal finished and how great it will look/feel/sound/taste. (good for chores)
  4. Break a big goal down into smaller tasks. Perspective makes all the difference.
  5. Give yourself a time limit/deadline. This helps especially when it's something you don't really want to do. If you know you only have to do it for _ hours, it's not so bad.
  6. Treat yourself. Give yourself an incentive to get the work done, and celebrate when you do. This might be going out with friends, writing a celebratory blog post, watching a tv show you love.
  7. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to accomplish your goal, or people trying to accomplish the same goal you are. This is the writing community, so you won't have to go far before you run into someone who's also writing a YA set in the civil war, or a contemporary romance set in a bakery.
  8. Dump the negativity. If someone - even a writer friend - makes you feel talentless, stupid, or doubtful of your skills, get away from that person. Accomplishing big goals is hard enough without naysayers trying to trip you up. 
  9. Start. Just do the thing. It isn't that big a deal. Really. 
  10. Repeat steps 1-8 and keep going. 

We are not stones, and the impulse of creativity/productivity is not inert. It is motion. It is fire, and it pulls and pushes and makes you very uncomfortable until you take action. So take action now. No amount of gentle, happy words telling you how great you are can beat that. Go to it!

Friday, August 5, 2016

August #OABookClub

Why, hello, everyone! In July, we took some time off from the #OABookClub, but in August, we're back with a craft book every writer should read at least once:

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King's On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
Come back at the beginning of September to let us know what you thought of it!

#LesMisRead2016 Update from Samantha

We're not going to talk about it right now.


So what have you been reading this summer? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Meet Isabel Bandeira in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

1- That Alice dress in your profile pic makes me happy. Do you wear it often, or was there a special event?

That's actually my "Once Upon a Time" Belle dress from Halloween 2015. Accessorizing it was easy, and I have pulled it out for other costume opportunities since then.
I do happen to have the same purple Fluevog boots as SyFy Alice, though, and can kick some serious Queen of Hearts butt in them.

2- Have you ever tried to go through a looking glass?

No, but I have checked plenty of wardrobes!

3- Why did you write this book?

I wanted to write something just for myself and just for fun.

4- What most contributed to your choice of publication method?

I always wanted to go the traditional route because that's what works for me, my schedule, and my interests. If you self pub, you need to be able to wear a lot of hats, and that wouldn't work for me. My editors made my words shine and Spencer Hill made an incredibly beautiful book and I'm glad we were able to work together to make Bookishly a reality.

5- Do you have an image of the most awesome item you have ever knitted?

In terms of "this is just plain cool," I have to say it was the felted chain scarf I made for one of my friends.

But, if I have to pick my favorite knit, it has to be the woodland lace shawl I made during a Lord of the Rings knit-a-long. The yarn colorway was so perfectly elven, and I carried a gold thread throughout so the shawl sparkles in the light.

6- Some people say that, since fairy tales seem to originate in Europe, they all lack diversity. What are your thoughts on that, and did you break that barrier?

Europe doesn't have the monopoly on fairy tales, and there are lovely fairy tales from Asia to the Middle East that I devoured when I was growing up. A lot of fairy tales actually have roots that go back millennia and cross cultures--that's why you have Cinderella and the very similar Ye Xian (I think I either saw a cartoon of that story or a picture book of it when I was growing up, because I remember being obsessed with the beautiful fish-scale dress for years.) I love writing contemporary fairy tales, where the magic comes from the character's personality, friends, and choices rather than a wand or a magical fish, and set in places that reflect the modern, diverse world around us.

7- Any fantastic little memory to share from your time in Portugal among the cathedrals, castles, and ancient tombs?

There's a 6000 year old dolmen (portal tomb) near my family's house in Portugal on an archaeological route that includes portions of a Roman road and other, smaller tombs. I don't get to visit it often, but when I do, it's magical. It's incredibly humbling and inspiring touching something that old--there are *stories* in those stones.

8- You fence. Can we look forward to you giving us characters who are proficient in that skill?

Maybe ;)

9- Books, books everywhere, and not enough time to read them all. How do you select what book you'll buy yourself next?

Buying books isn't the problem, picking one off my massive TBR is a challenge, though! I tend to go through cycles--I crave light contemporaries in the summer and heavier fantasy/paranormal in the winter. Now that it's summer, if a book mentions camp or ren faires, it rockets to the top of the TBR.

10- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Bookishly Ever After blurb:

In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably one filled with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary.

Everything changes when Phoebe learns that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her. So, Phoebe turns to the heroines in her favorite books for advice on a personality overhaul. Becoming as awesome as her book characters isn’t as easy as it sounds and when another girl nets Dev for herself right from under Phoebe’s nose, she’s crushed.

Then, to up the suckage, she gets assigned as his co-counselor at a sixth grade camp and has to spend an entire week tied to the hip with the one guy on the planet she wanted to avoid. Can she make it through the potential danger of romantic bonfires and nature walks without Dev figuring out she’s still not over him, or will her counseling career end in emotional disaster? Can she ever go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

Growing up, Isabel Bandeira split her time between summers surrounded by cathedrals, castles, and ancient tombs in Portugal and the rest of the year hanging around the lakes and trees of Southern New Jersey, which only fed her fairy-tale and nature obsessions. Even though she’s a Mechanical Engineer and tones down her love of all things glittery while designing medical devices during the day, it all comes out in her writing. In her spare time, you’ll find her at the dance studio or at the rink, working on her jumps and sit spin.

Isabel lives in South Jersey with her little black cat, too many books, too much yarn, and a closetful of vintage hats. She is represented by Carrie Howland of Donadio and Olson, Inc.

website  Twitter Tumblr Instagram  Goodreads  Pinterest

Buy Links:
Amazon Barnes and Noble Indigo Book Depository Indiebound

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Latest Lessons from Pass Or Pages

Wow! I feel like this round of Pass Or Pages really taught us a lot about our agent panel's personal tastes. I love it! Individual tastes are so subjective, guys. It's what makes choosing what feedback to incorporate so tricky. Here's what I learned this go-around from our agent panel and entries.

  • Genre conventions are important to know. In Women's Fiction, the trend is definitely toward 3rd person. 1st person present is a much harder sell.

  • Short, straightforward sentences are key, especially because agents read queries so quickly.

  • When several people (CPs, beta readers, whatever) give you the same note, you should definitely pay close attention.

  • Agents and readers will have expectations about your main character and story based on the query letter, and it can be jarring for the opening pages of the novel not to live up to those expectations.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Serenading the Wicked Heart: An Ode to Villains

Good villains require a lot of development so they don't become flat, cliche stereotypes. Villains, like ogres, should have layers. There are different types of villains, but my favorite are sympathetic villains. These characters might be just a decision or two away from being a hero, and we might be a decision or two away from being them. To me, that's fascinating.

One of my favorite sympathetic villains is Scorpius from the Sci-Fi channel series Farscape. He seeks the same goal as the hero John Crichton, but his methods for getting it are decidedly more evil and underhanded than John's. Scorpius has physical weaknesses that hinder him, but he uses his intellect to overcome them. This flaw has created a lot of Scorpi's determination and taught him internal strength, building a villain I would side with if it wasn't for the golden-hearted boy-next-door John Crichton.

quick Rumple sketch by Donelle Lacy
On the fringes of villainy, you'll find another character I absolutely love. The Trickster character. He's slippery, seductive, and you never know what side he's on. Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon A Time is both
a villain and a trickster. His fingers are in everything and he's constantly three steps ahead of the other characters. He has a sympathetic backstory as well as circumstances in which he might be either truly evil or unusually kind.

After reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, I was charmed by the Marquis De Carabas. The long coat, the hat, the flashy smile, seemed more at home in a Louisiana gin joint than the Underground of London, but he fit perfectly. Gaiman played on all the traditional trickster qualities and produced a character who walks that fine line between reader trust and distrust. You're compelled to read on and find out more about him.

What we love most about villains and tricksters is that they do and say the things heroes never could. They cross lines, break hearts, and pull rugs out from under everyone else. They're shifty, sneaky, and clever in ways we wish we could be. They don't have to play fair, but they're seldom very happy for long. So they become tragic figures we secretly wish would come out on top. And in some stories, they do.

Writing villains requires inspiration, motivation, and a deep appreciation for the slipperier critters of the literary world. Without a well-developed villain, a hero would never know how bold, brave, or strong he could be, nor would he be motivated to find out. Villains, more than heroes, are fantastic motivators. If you don't believe me, consider the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, the Doctor and the Master, Batman and the Joker. The more compelling the villain is, the more the hero has to step up his game, and thus the hero becomes legendary.

When you're writing your villains, peel back the layers and get to the heart of why they are who they are. What made them that way? What/who do they love? And what steps would they take against someone who threatened that love?