Thursday, October 27, 2016

Five Years With You

When Kristal Shaff and I got together and started a critique group in 2011, we decided to call ourselves

Operation Awesome! 

The name was Amparo Ortiz's idea, and it just fit. It was the era of WriteOnCon and Query Shark and Querytracker forums, where Kristal and I "met." Pretty soon after forming our little group, we decided to start blogging together, having no idea how this little adventure would propel us into the heart of the writer-blogger community and connect us to the pulse of the industry. Kristal invented Oliver, that adorable owl to match the blog background we'd nicked from, and an institution was born.

We launched with our first Mystery Agent contest, judged by Mandy Hubbard, author of Prada and Prejudice and agent with D4EO Literary Agency. Now she heads up the Emerald City Literary Agency.

Most of our operatives over the past five years have published books and moved on to various exciting endeavors beyond the exciting busy-ness of Operation Awesome's debut author interviews and agent-judged contests. I've been so blessed to know them and to work with many of them behind the scenes of this blog. Life has changed so much for me personally since those early days of patrolling the Mystery Agent entries and twitter-stalking agents.

When we started, my family looked like this:

Today, my family looks like this:

I am the last of the original OA founders, but the current operatives are continuing our original hope of connecting with and giving back to the online writing community through this collaborative project. As community projects and family are now blessing my life with nearly constant activity, and my own writing ambitions have changed significantly from what they were in 2011, it's time to say my goodbyes to this blog's readers. It's been amazing getting to know many of you and reading your work. You inspire me in more ways than one. I will still write reviews from time to time and you can contact me at

Thank you for the opportunity of connecting with you through writing. 

Stay Awesome.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

November Pass Or Pages Details

One more Pass Or Pages this year! We are so pumped to bring you all one last query critique contest before the holiday season. So without further ado...

In November, the category for Pass Or Pages will be Middle Grade Contemporary!

Here are the important dates for this round:
November 1: Agent announcement and recap of rules
November 7-9: Entry window open (via a form here on Operation Awesome)
November 21-25: Feedback reveals!

To learn more about Pass Or Pages, please take a look at the rules and previous feedback reveals.

We can't wait to see those entries, and neither can our agent judges! 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest Winner #21

Thank you to all our participants! I loved reading the entries, you guys are a scary bunch. ;) I seriously had a hard time picking the two winners. But after much deliberating , those two winners are...Crawfordwriting & Maryanne Frederick! Feel free to snag the #OA Flash badge as your own, and I'll be contacting you to see which Halloween print you would like emailed to you. Thanks again, everyone!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tending Your Story Garden -Guest Post from Lauri Fortino

Please welcome the winner of the OA TBR contest! Lauri Fortino opted for the guest post prize, so here it is:

Tending Your Story Garden

By Lauri Fortino

Before you can harvest your vegetables, you must plant the seeds, water the seedlings, nourish the soil, and have patience. Without tending, your garden will wither and die. Stories are gardens grown from the seeds of ideas, watered with love, and nourished with knowledge. Just like a vegetable garden, your story garden must be tended so that, in time, it will fill up with a cornucopia of plump and tasty tales.

Every story starts with an idea seed that has formed in our minds. When we choose to take that idea and put it down on paper or computer screen, we’ve planted the seed that has the potential to bloom into a beautiful story.

Each story is a garden of its own that began as an idea seed, or more likely, multiple seeds from which tiny seedlings, or idea-lings, have sprung forth. Once the idea-lings have sprouted, it’s time to nurture them. If we don’t, our story will never come to fruition.

  1. Water with love. If you don’t believe in your story, it will show in your writing, which will be flat and lifeless. Most likely, you will abandon it and it will wither away. Always begin with an idea that excites you, then you’ll shower your story with your heart and soul and it will flourish. 
  2. Nourish with knowledge. Just as gardeners use hoes, rakes, and fertilizer to tend their gardens, writers should arm themselves with the right tools. I don’t mean paper, pencils, and laptops. No matter what kind of story you write, or what audience you’re writing for, boost your writing skills through education, research, and practice. If you polish your skills, your story will shine. 
  3. Weed with purpose. In a garden, weeds can spread quickly. They take over and suffocate the crops. Stories can have weeds too. Too much description, unnecessary words, passive voice, poor pacing, bland dialogue, and a thin plot are weeds that overshadow and choke out your characters, action, and theme, all the things that give life to your story . Once you’ve completed your first draft, go back and edit it. Weed out everything that bogs your story down and keeps it from blossoming.

Self-doubt is the worst weed of all. It’s a force as destructive to your story as a hail storm is to a fragile flower garden. We all hear that negative voice coming from deep inside that tells us our writing is not good enough. Grab hold of it and yank it out by the roots. If you write about things that interest you, practice your writing skills, edit your work, and persevere, your stories will be better than just good enough; they’ll be dazzling, just like that prize-winning giant pumpkin at the county fair.

Lauri Fortino is the author of the children’s picture book The Peddler’s Bed. She doesn’t garden, but she was a floral designer for ten years before starting her writing career. She also works at her local public library and is often the first person to take home all of the new picture books. She enjoys spending time with her husband Chris and their dog Java at their home in Syracuse, NY. Visit Lauri on her blog Frog on a [B]log or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
Frog on a Blog: 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #21 (Halloween! Prizes!)

This #OAFlash fiction contest will be a bit different. Instead of a prompt that needs included, you're welcome to write anything you want-- as long as it's horror, and only three sentences. Or for those that are faint of heart (like me), you can just go for spooky and three sentences. ;)

Rules for the contest can be found here.
Winner will be announced Sunday around noon.



Besides the nifty owl badge that proclaims you a winner, you'll also be able to pick one of the Halloween graphics from below. And there'll be not just one winner, but two! I will be emailing them as a pdf file, so if your email is not located in your Blogger profile, please leave it with your entry below (or another method in which to notify you).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Meet Randi Perrin in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

This pop-culture loving, 2016 debut author is lighting a publication trail. It's time to get to know Randi Perrin.

1- I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing... What's This, What's This, in your Little Black Backpack? Anything that, In the face of overwhelming odds, if you were left with only one option, you could science the s&%$ out of this?


I get bored easily, so I’ve always got my phone and my Kindle on me. MacGuyver could probably rebuild a third-world country with those two things. I also always have a pen, in case the muse hits me in the middle of grocery shopping—or in case I want to build a laser. You know, whichever. (The ballpoint pen laser is another MacGuyver thing. It’s really not funny if I have to explain it, is it?)

2- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

I’ve always been a writer, for as far back as I remember. However, what caused me to finally act on the dream to publish a novel was my brush with death four years ago, which is referenced in the dedication of Virtue of Death.
“To that angel of death who had her chance to take me four years ago but didn’t. Your graciousness in disobeying orders gave me the chance to chase this dream.”
It wasn’t until after I crawled out from under the survivor’s guilt that I realized that I would have completely wasted my life if I didn’t at least try to accomplish what I’d always wanted—a book with my name on it. What kind of example would I set for my daughter if I didn’t chase my dreams?
I want her to live life to her fullest, learn how to get back up after being knocked down. If I leave her with nothing else, I want her to know that. Anything is possible, so long as you work for it.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

When I was in the first grade, I convinced my teacher I was dressed up for the career costume day parade (in my white oxford button-down and a plaid skirt) because I was “an author.” Truth be told, I just wanted to get out of class. Little did I know how true those words were going to become.
It’s really always been there. I have often tried to deny it, but always ended up back to it in one way or another. Finally, though, my freshman year of college, after I flunked Calculus, I switched majors from Computer Science to Journalism (which is where my all-knowing mother told me I should have been all along), and that was it. Writing was in my soul—and I was finally going to get over my head and listen to my heart.

4- Your Pinterest boards are highly entertaining. Is that fantastic content relevant to your fanbase and those you're trying to reach, or are you just having a great time?

Oh, you just reminded me that I needed to make the Promises of Virtue board public.
It’s really just me having fun. I make a board for each one of my projects. So you’ll see a board for Virtue of Death, Just What I Need (included in the anthology Unintentional: North American Edition), Wreck You, and as of about thirty seconds ago, Promises of Virtue. It’s just fun to find close representations of my characters or things that inspired the story.
Then, of course, there’s the Hot Dudes board which is almost all Colin O’Donoghue and Keith Urban, my two major fangirl crushes. (For the rest of my fangirl crushes, see the board The List.)

5- Do you have a fun story to share with us that illustrates a time when a benefit of being a published author came to light for you?

Not really, though this past weekend was my first convention. I spent most of the days in the vendor hall, manning a table that didn’t get much traffic. But by the third day we were all about slap happy and tired of being there. One of the authors writes BDSM so she had handcuffs and a flogger on her table, which we ended up playing with. I have a picture on my Facebook page of me laughing hysterically while I hit Brian Keene (horror writer extraordinaire) with the flogger. Granted it was just over his shoulder, but hey... How many people can say they beat Brian Keene with a flogger? In public?

6- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

I have two critique partners/beta kitties who are amazing and love everything I send them. They call themselves the “Optimist Cavalry” because I’m a pessimist by nature, and can’t ever seem to find anything I write decent. So I have them to be the optimist I can’t be. The founding member of the cavalry was a stranger from Twitter I’d asked to beta read Virtue of Death and although it was in horrible shape (with a horrendously bad title) at the time, she still loved it. It’s funny you mention “shipping” because if I go open up her review comments, there’s one that reads: “NGL, that made me ship them all.” It was a scene at the end. But I’m not going to ruin it for everyone, are you crazy?

7- Have you read "Go Set a Watchman," and if so, what did you think of it?

I’m going to pretend you didn’t ask that question. *la la la*
It feels like complete blasphemy to say about Harper Lee, but I absolutely cannot get into it. The book is on my headboard, marked on page 50-something, like it has been for well over a year. It doesn’t feel like her writing. Not to mention she killed a major character from To Kill a Mockingbird in the first twenty pages with no explanation at all. No. No. No. No. I opted to put the book down at that point and retain my innocence. So, in my world, Go Set a Watchman doesn’t exist. (Truth be told, according to reports, Harper Lee shoved that one in the back of a drawer hoping it wouldn’t come to light. I’m just doing what Ms. Lee would want me to do, right?)

8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

Virtue of Death has a tendency to stir up all kinds of emotions. You’ll definitely laugh at my two snarks, Destin and Cheryl. However, you’re probably going to cry, too. There are several different scenes that I’ve been told were met with tears. All of those were written to be heavy on purpose. It’s a balance. You can’t have love without pain, joy without tears. These characters go through so much to get to the end—anger, attraction, jealousy, laughter, sadness, and hope. But it all makes the ending that much more rewarding.

9- Care to share more about your four-legged children?

I could go on and on about them.
The current old man of the group is Booger, my black and white tuxedo cat. He’s sixteen and a giant pain in the ass, always mewing for more food when his bowl is full, but he’s also the most loving thing you’ll ever meet.
Next up is Oscar, my thirteen-year-old dachshund. He has more personality than most people I’ve met. (Sorry people I’ve met, but it’s true.) Psst. He’s named after Oscar Wilde.
The baby of the group is Kyppy (which is short for Kipling—yep, the dogs have a theme). She’s a Chihuahua mix, which is hilarious because I hate Chihuahuas, but damned if she isn’t sweet as can be and adorable. (She’s mixed with Pekingese so her ears flop over and she has an underbite.)

We also have two axolotls. Now you ask, what the heck are axolotls? These guys.

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

It’s actually funny you say that because Sera’s visual oddity is actually what transformed the entire book from what I originally planned into what it is today. I decided early on that she was going to have a full-back angel wing tattoo. Because tattoos are fun. Then it hit me: What if she really is an angel? Thus my contemporary slid into paranormal and my entire plot changed. (For the better, I think.)
Sera can’t stand when people swear around her because of her restriction as an angel. She’s always giving them some vicious side-eye.

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

*hangs head in shame* In Virtue of Death, not so much.
NOW… that’s not to say I haven’t written diverse characters. Wreck You is a m/m romance novella that came out after VOD, which features both gay and pansexual characters. There’s also a lesbian couple in VOD’s follow-up, Promises of Virtue.

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

First and foremost, I am an absolute sucker for rock star romances and stories about reporters. (Reference that Journalism degree I have.) Lately I’ve only read indie authors, though. There’s so much awesome hidden in indie and small press publishing. I tend to pick up stories from authors I have interacted with on Twitter/Facebook, or ones that come highly recommended from my friends. Or, sometimes I’m just playing around in Amazon and my one-click finger gets a bit trigger happy.

13- What was the deciding factor in your publication route

I went small press.
I think Virtue of Death might be a tough sell in the traditional market, so I knew that was out.
I have crippling self-doubt about my writing (seriously, ask my Optimist Cavalry who are constantly talking me off the ledge), so self-pubbing was off the table. Perhaps it’s egotistical, but I needed to have someone external believe in my novel enough to take it on. If left to my own devices, I’d just hide my stories in the hidden folder on my hard drive where novels go to die.

14- What's the best screen cap text conversation compliment you've saved?

Ohh, you did your homework.
“You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. To be honest, I’m sitting here reading this feeling self-conscious about my own writing. Even on your bad days (which are still awesome), you kick my writing butt. I lack the depth that your writing has. You have a gift.”
It’s kind of amazing I haven’t gotten a big head with friends like that, you know?

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

How about an excerpt, a blurb, and a teaser or two? I’ll give you an excerpt from one of my favorite chapters. Don’t forget to find me online. I’m everywhere.
Social media:

At eighteen, Sera Moore chose to go to culinary school while a higher power selected her to become an angel, specifically, an angel of death.
Now, twelve years later, Sera's a successful baker during the day and performs her angelic duties at night. The only thing missing in her life is a man, but the last thing she wants is to fall head over wings in love.
But when a tenacious food critic won't take a hint, can Sera lower her wings long enough to risk her heart one more time?

“Hey there.” She beckoned him forward with a crook of her index finger.
He inhaled sharply and let it out slow. “Look, I don’t know what happened last night, but what happens after a wedding stays after the wedding.”
Amusement crossed her face, and then she broke into a full-blown laugh. “Why, what do you think happened last night?”
His eyes narrowed. “I just told you, I don’t know.”
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing happened last night ’cause you couldn’t get it up. You promised me all sorts of dirty things, but the only dirty thing I got was this apartment.” She gestured around the room.
He glanced down at his crotch and gave his genitals an approving nod of thanks—or was it his fascination with that caterer he should be thanking?—for saving him from this sorority girl. Good job, boys.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Amazon Reviews: Don't Get Deleted!

We all know that reviews influence what people buy. Many people depend on reviews to help them decide whether their money would be better spent on Product A or Product B. Reaching a set number of reviews, positive or negative, can increase a product's visibility.

We know that reviews are important to authors for these reasons. So we can imagine how frustrating it would be to have reviews taken down. Amazon does this as part of its fight against fake/bought reviews. Unfortunately, sometimes legitimate reviews get red-flagged in the process.

Leaving a review is one of the best things you can do to help promote a book that you love. So how can you be sure that your review doesn't get red-flagged or removed? Here are some suggestions from author Randy Ingermanson:

  • Don’t write a review of your own book. Not under your own name. Not under a fake name. 
  • Don’t pay other people to write a review for you.
  • Don’t ask family members to write a review for you.
  • Don’t post a review of your book on behalf of somebody else. If they write the review, they should post it themselves. If you find review material about your book on another web site, you can put this in the Editorial Reviews section of your book page (using your Author Central account). But don’t post it as a customer review.
  • Don’t ask authors who are your close friends to write a review for you. It is OK for authors to review books, but Amazon specifically excludes those who have a “personal relationship” with you. 
  • Don’t ask people who had a hand in creating your book (such as editors, illustrators, marketing people, etc.) to write a review for you.
  • Don’t use a tit for tat arrangement where you write a review for another author in exchange for them writing a review for you. If another author emails you asking you to do this, let them know that it’s a violation of Amazon’s Terms of Service.
  • Don’t give any sort of compensation to your readers in exchange for a review. This includes drawings for your reviewers, gift cards, or any other gift. 
  • You are allowed to provide a free copy of your book upfront to reviewers. However, you must make it clear to them that all you are asking for is an honest review, which means they are free to write a bad review if they dislike your book. Furthermore, their review must say clearly that they received a free copy of your book in exchange for an honest review.
  • You are allowed to ask for a review at the end of your book. What you should not do is to offer anything to people who post reviews. Don’t offer a gift card. Don’t offer a free copy of some other book. Don’t offer bonus content. Don’t offer anything. And be aware that some of your readers will write a scathing review. Scathing reviews are just part of life—they won’t kill you.
(This list is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 15,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

These tips are obviously for the authors themselves, but it is easy to see how you can follow these guidelines as a reviewer, as well. For example, you don't want your review to look like it is coming from a friend or family member of the author, so don't write things like "This was a great book and (Author) is the nicest person!" Comments on whether the author is friendly on Twitter, or runs a writing contest, or whatever, have no place in a book review. Stick to commenting on the book, and you should be safe.

For an additional tip, visit OA member J Lenni Dorner's blog. Now go forth and review wisely!

Monday, October 17, 2016

5 Ways Unpublished Writers Can Make Themselves More Attractive to Publishers

I’ve been treasure hunting in the slush pile at Rebelight Publishing Inc. for just over two years. One of our mandates is to publish new authors, so part of my hunt includes searching for manuscripts from unpublished writers. Of our thirteen signed authors, five are new to publishing. In other words,
over 38 per cent our stable of authors are publishing their first novel with Rebelight. Besides having a well-written, riveting, out-of-the-box story, here are five tips for showing publishers you’re ready to take the next step in your writing career.
  1. Research query letter writing before you start querying. Query writing is tough, but there are resources galore online. Telling me that you don’t know how to write one because you’re new to this only makes me think you’re unwilling to put in the hard work needed to learn a new skill. And there are tons of new skills to learn when you publish your first book.
  2. Show me you’re serious about your writing. Maybe you haven’t achieved publication yet. It’s understandable in this publishing climate. If you don’t have publishing credits to boast in your query letter, then tell me what you have been doing to hone your craft. Have you been mentored by a professional writer? Are you a part of a writers’ group? Have you taken courses and sought out critique of your work? This tells me you’re willing to take risks and go the extra mile for your writing career.
  3. Do your research. Know how the publishing business works. Again, information is available
    online. You may be a novice, but you need not be ignorant. We want to know that any new author we bring on-board understands the business and just how tough it is, so they’re prepared for the next steps in their writing career.
  4. Be professional. Your query letter, synopsis, and all correspondences should reveal professionalism. Not that you can’t be friendly, but never should the friendliness undermine your professionalism. We are interested in working with professional writers who can go the distance.
  5. Conduct yourself with integrity. We publish books for young people and, like it or not, young people will seek you out online. We want our readers to be able to connect with our authors. We do check potential authors’ social media outlets to ensure the author is someone we want to work with and is someone we're proud to associate with
    Rebelight. Be aware of what you’re making public and the effect it may have on your career.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Evolution of My Bookcases

I've gone through a recent change-- and it has nothing to do with menopause or vampires. ;) It's a change in the way I bookworm, or rather, buy books. You see, back when I rediscovered my love for reading and YA (around eight years now), I begin to buy books. ALL THE BOOKS.

I'd go to the bookstore, and if it sounded remotely like something I'd like to read, I'd buy it. I'd buy books based on cover art alone. Even if it sounded like the last thing I'd want to read in the world, if it had an eye candy cover, it was mine!!

Last year, as I was standing in my office (i.e. spare bedroom that also shares space with the ironing board and my husband's golf clubs) looking for something to read, I realized I didn't want to read any of the 100+ books that were currently unread on my shelves. I kept returning to my favorites, my comfort reads.

And I decided that from then on out, when I looked at my bookcases, I only wanted to see old friends. Books that I had reread countless times, and would continue to reach for when I missed the friends inside the pages.

So many selling trips to Half Price Books later, I now have gone from three full bookcases to two. My formula for book buying is that I now borrow them from the library first. If I love it, I go buy it. If not, it goes back to the library-- and not into the towers of books that were growing around my bookcases, as I'd long outgrown their shelf capacity with my book hoarding ways.

Now to document this evolution:

The first two...

And then there were three...

Note the stack beginning in the corner. This is in its infancy. Soon it would grow to be a danger to all who walked past...

And here we are! Current day. Top shelves hold my Anne Rinaldi books (historical fiction at its finest) and my A Series of Unfortunate Events books. Beside the ampersands are my James Herriot books. By the bulldog piggy bank are my Marion Chesney books; imho, the best Regency books ever written. And the rest are my favorite YA & MG books!

How do you buy books? Are you happiest with piles and piles of books like a treasure-loving dragon? Or are you a less is more type book-buyer? I'd love to know!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tragedy and the Writer

As writers, we spend a lot of time in our heads. That's where we form our stories and gestate them until they're ready to be born. But what happens when tragedy strikes and your head is so full of struggle, worry, and sadness that stories barely have room to breathe much less grow and flourish?

I've spoken to a number of writers recently who have gone through difficult situations. They report that their heads feel foggy, that they have trouble concentrating, and lack the drive needed to motivate themselves to write. Recently, I've had my own troubles. Back in July, my uncle, a person who'd been a great influence on my life, passed away. It's tough enough to lose someone, but to know it didn't have to happen makes it even more difficult. If someone hadn't chosen to drink and drive, my uncle would still be with us.

My head was full--of grief, of anger, of confusion--a fog of emotions. Instead of my stories, I dwelt on his stories--memories of times spent with him and with his family. But, also on the news stories and accompanying photos of the accident. I caught a last minute flight to my home state of Oregon, so I could grieve with my family.

The only thing I wrote during that time was an obituary and a memorial I read at the funeral. They were both unlike anything I've ever written before. But what was good to see was the healing power of words, the healing power of shared stories. When we speak or write of loved ones we've lost, they live inside our heads for a little while, just like our characters.

I allowed myself some time. Only time can clear the fog. Be patient with yourself, and allow yourself to grieve without expectations. I'm just starting to get back into novel writing. As the grief loosens it's grip, tiny story ideas sprout up. The creativity is all still there, somewhere inside my crowded head, and soon there will be enough space that stories can grow again.


Melinda Friesen writes novels for teens. SUBVERSION, book two in the YA dystopian One Bright Future series was released in September of 2016 from Rebelight Publishing Inc.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Meet Angela Kay in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

1- What inspired you to hold a monthly writing contest?

I felt having a monthly contest would be different than the usual weekly writing prompts. It also helps save me time between blogging, writing, reading, editing others' work, and my day job. However, I haven't yet had any entries since I started it, so I may choose something else for my blog.

2- What ignited your passion for writing?

As a child, I had an overactive imagination. I always wrote them down. There hasn't been anything I wanted to be other than a writer.

3- What was your week in Atlanta at Horizon Theater like?

It was an experience. I didn't know what to expect. It was because I won a one-act playwriting contest that I even got to go. I was surprised I won because playwriting isn't my main interest. My professor at that time urged me to send in the one-act I write for his class. The best part of me spending the week in Atlanta was that it was the first time since high school that I got to reconnect with my best friend ever since forth grade.

Some humor for you, Angela, because you like Goldfish:

4- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

I'd say my mom. There has been very few people to even read my debut before I published. She kept urging me to finish and send it off, even before I was satisfied. She's honest when she says she loves my writing. It's not even the genre she'd normally read. I think what she loves the most is that I based my main character off of someone close to me in real life.

5- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

There are some "shockers" that I hope readers will be upset over, but at the same time knowing it was bound to happen. I can't give away too much of the story because I want readers to buy and enjoy.

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

My main character, Lieutenant DeLong, has good instincts that tells him whether something's not right.

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

Throughout each character and with the investigation itself.

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

Either subject interest or a favorite author.

9- Care to share a pic and fun story of your cat?

My cat is as human as they come. Her name is Maggie, after Liz Taylor in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." She's spoiled, but too sweet for words. I always wanted a cat that liked to follow me around...well, be careful of what you wish for! She does so to a fault. She loves playing and looking out my window. Maggie also is very smart. She knows what she's not allowed to do, but sometimes she tends to test me to see if she'll actually get squirted with the water bottle. If that happens, she just stares as if to say "I dare you to do it again." For a cat, she's very well-trained. If only she could use and flush a toilet!

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

I spent years deciding what I wanted to do. I always wanted to go the traditional route, but after I finished writing "The Murder of Manny Grimrs," I decided that I was not only too impatient, but indie authors were capable of succeeding. After talking to some of my author friends, I was introduced to my publisher. Working with him, I learned a great deal.

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

Equipped with a professional writing degree from Augusta State University, Angela Kay is a southern lady who spends her days and nights dreaming up new ways to solve dark murders of normal people.
Angela Kay is one of 23 across the United States to win a 2009 playwright contest for her one-act entitled “Digging Deeper.” Because of this, she was able to spend a week in Atlanta at the Horizon Theater Company.
She lives in Augusta, Georgia with her crazy calico, Maggie.
You may visit Angela at and

When three young boys stumble into Lieutenant Jim DeLong’s life one night during a winter storm, they claim they've seen a dead body by the swing sets of the Columbia County Elementary School. After he investigates, DeLong sees no evidence, not even a body.

But were the boys telling the truth?

With the help of his oldest friend and mentor, former Naval investigator Russ Calhoun, DeLong sets out to find whether Manny Grimes is alive or dead. The further away he gets to the bottom of the mystery, the closer he comes to realize that his own life is falling apart.

Delving deeper into the murder of Manny Grimes, Lieutenant DeLong begins to unravel, losing his sense of control, falling into old temptations he spent years to overcome.

Will he be able to move past his own demons and untangle the web of lies before it’s too late?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Writer's Journey From Script to Screen: Guest post by Brandon Ho

Brandon is a member of my writing group, but while the rest of us write novels, Brandon writes screenplays! He's a writer and director, and recently released the first episode in a new web series called Unsung Heroes.

I'm so excited to see my web series launch! It's been quite an adventure taking a passion project from the script to the screen. Even though I don't know whether it will be embraced or rejected by the public, I still learned a lot from the process and would love to share some insights.

Nothing happens unless you write:
You don't have a book if you don't write, and you can't film a script that goes unwritten. As simple as it sounds, writing matters! Unsung Heroes started with my friend (Spencer Scanlon, partner in crime for the webseries) and I laughing about a scenario that we made up and then he told me "Write it!" So I did. I downloaded a writing app on my phone (celtx) and started writing short stories out on any of my downtime. 15 minute sprints were usually what I had to work with, but a little bit a day added up to having 5-7 short scripts in about a month.

Share what you make with others:
There's an odd thing that comes with sharing what I wrote; first off, I felt very vulnerable. I don't know what it is, but I feel like when someone is reading my story they are reading into my soul, and learning about the essence of who I am. It doesn't matter if it's a personal story or about a rabbit looking for a shoe, I'm a completely open book to the world. Luckily, Spencer was shameless in showing our scripts to everyone. Which led to seeing what people liked, didn't like, and eventually others who said, "Great, when are we making this?"

Seek out and embrace collaboration:
So writing a script is very different than writing a book, but I think there's a principle that can help novelists a ton, and that's collaboration. When one writes a script, it is never really a finished product by itself, but more like a blueprint for a house that the construction workers create. That means that other people are a part of that creative control. For Unsung Heroes, we had a director who was constantly asking "Are we missing an opportunity here?" and challenging me to dig deeper into what I wrote. Sometimes it was difficult pill to swallow to hear someone say "I don't think that works" about something I wrote, but some of my favorite stuff from the webseries comes from what we worked out in those moments, even though we tossed out entire segments/scenes that I wrote.

Don't climb too high on the pride ladder:
This corresponds with the previous one, but I want to iterate it again because it's the one I constantly have to check for myself. It's hard to share my writing with others and hear them say it doesn't work. But an amazing thing happens when you show it to someone else and put your personal guards down. You get to see how someone experiences what you made through their eyes. When they experience the story the way you intended them to the satisfaction is euphoric. When they don't respond how you want them to, it's devastating. But remember this: it doesn't mean what you want to do is lost, it means that you now know what point of your story can be improved. So give yourself some time for sorrow, but jump back in while you're armed with this new knowledge to reshape your story to become what you intended it to be.

So check out my web series Unsung Heroes; let me know what works and what doesn't, I'll be more than happy to learn from all of you and work together as artists as we strive to tell stories that share our beliefs/passions/ideas with one another!

Brandon Ho was raised in Colorado and attended the BYU film school in Provo, UT. He is the director of the short film “My Hero,” winner of the 2012 College Television Award for Best Children’s Film. He actively seeks both old and new ways to use film as a teaching and promotional tool. Working closely with experts in the music and educational industries, he has produced music videos teaching children strong values and book trailers to promote reading. He is currently working on the web series Unsung Heroes.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #20

Today, October 7th, is National Frappe Day!! So what better way to celebrate one of the 'keep-your-eyes-open, keep-you-sane' drinks that is coffee, than by writing some flash fiction about it?

Rules for the contest can be found here.
Winner will be announced Sunday, a bit after noon, ET. Have fun!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Meet Kristin Bartley Lenz in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

1- The nickname or abbreviation for your book is "TAOHOALG" -- How are you pronouncing that?

Haha, there is no good way to pronounce that! A book blogger started using it at the beginning of my blog tour, and then I started using it too. The Art of Holding On and Letting Go is a wonderful metaphor for the rock climbing and the emotional journey in my book, but it’s tiring to repeatedly say and type such a long title!

2- Living in Detroit, have you visited the Diego Rivera murals? If so, what impressions did you have from them?

Wow, you’re the first blogger to ask me specifically about Detroit. I’ve seen the Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts on several occasions. They are huge and impressive and I sort of stood in awe the first time, trying to take it all in. With each visit, you notice new details. If you can’t visit the murals in person, the DIA has a guided tour online:

3- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

I was often sick as a child with severe asthma that wasn’t under control until my mid-teens. I had bronchitis and pneumonia every year, was hospitalized, and wasn’t able to play sports like soccer with my friends. I spent a lot of time at home reading, drawing, writing, and daydreaming. When I was healthy, I liked to explore the woods behind my house. My appreciation of nature began as a child, and I wrote stories in my head, imagining journeys and mysteries during these solo excursions.

4- What ignited your passion for writing?

In 2nd grade, I won a young authors contest for a poem I wrote, If I Could Fly. I got to read it at an assembly in front of the entire school and attend a regional conference where I met real authors. I was hooked. I wrote poems and short stories and journaled, but at some point during high school and college, I lost confidence in my writing. I needed to grow and experience more of the world. My social work career greatly expanded my worldview, and my confidence in my writing voice grew at the same time.

5- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I think my book covers a lot of emotional territory through universal themes, but most of all, I hope my book evokes empathy. I think it’s a very human story that most people can relate too, especially the concept of loss. Even if you haven’t yet experienced the death of a loved one, you’ve experienced other losses in your life – changing schools or jobs, changing friendships or romantic relationships, heath, divorce, moving to a new home.

6- Have you ever stayed/ dined at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere?

Why yes I have, and I didn’t even realize it had this distinction! You’ve done your research! The restaurant at the top is now called the Coach Insignia Detroit, and I was there for a holiday dinner with my husband’s co-workers a couple years ago. But my very first time at the restaurant was as a teenager with my first boyfriend in high school. He wanted it to be a surprise, so wouldn’t tell me where we were going. I was way under-dressed and so uncomfortable feeling like I didn’t belong there. At that time, the restaurant was called the Summit and it revolved 360 degrees giving you a complete panoramic view of Detroit and Canada. People would place notes or cards on the window ledge at their seat, and then watch for their note to make it all the way back around by the time they finished dinner. And sometimes other people would sign or write messages on those notes, like Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary. It was a fun idea!

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

Detroit and the surrounding suburbs are very diverse, but also very segregated. I wanted to accurately portray the real diversity in this area, but I’m white and that’s what I know, so my main character Cara is white. But her world is diverse, not just from the traveling she’s done, but the people she befriends when she moves to Detroit. Cara’s love interest, Tom, has a Mexican American father and a Jewish mother, and this has certainly shaped how he was raised and what’s important to him. Rock climbing in the U.S. seems to draw more white participants, but the climbing gym in my story is located in Pontiac, a struggling city with a large African American population. So, it made sense that there would be an African American boy at the climbing gym that Cara gets to know. Also, Cara’s beloved Uncle Max is gay. My own uncle is gay, and it was important for me to normalize this in my story – there’s no big coming-out scene, no huge drama around his sexual orientation; it’s simply who he is, and his family is very accepting of this.

8- Sites like neighborhood scout list Detroit as having a 1 in 50 chance of a citizen being a violent crime target. Given your background in social work, might you have any suggestions to improve the situation?

These statistics scare a lot of people, and entire books and research papers discuss the complicated history and solutions underway. Detroit is deeply entrenched in poverty, and dysfunctional government systems - including the schools - continue to be a barrier to progress. However, there’s currently a resurgence of economical growth with many new businesses and restaurants opening up. Some parts of the city are thriving and rapidly transforming, while other sections are left behind. The Skillman Foundation is one of the non-profits making a difference, providing financial support when systems fail, and providing leadership to empower residents to make the changes they need – from functioning street lights for safety to creation of new jobs to youth mentoring. You can learn more about what’s happening in Detroit here , and there are other empowering programs such as Inside Out Literary Arts which help to give kids a voice through writing/poetry. Read/listen to some of the poems on their website and be inspired:

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

(*No answer given.)

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

I knew that self-publishing wasn’t the right choice for me at this time. I really wanted to work closely with an editor and have the marketing benefits of a traditional press so my book could be in schools and libraries. When I saw the announcement for the Sheehan YA Book Prize from Elephant Rock Books last year, I almost ignored it. I was determined to be published by a large NY house, but then I realized how much this small press had accomplished. The last Sheehan winner, Carnival at Bray, was a Printz Honor book, a Kirkus book of the year, and a Morris Finalist. I knew this press was publishing quality books and they shared my vision. I’ve grown as a writer through the editing process, and they’ve nurtured my book through every stage. I’d do it all over again with my next book, but ERB only publishes YA novels through their Sheehan Prize, and they’ll be looking for their next winner in 2017.

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

I’m grateful that most of the major trade journals have reviewed my book, and I’ve gathered those quotes on my website:
The early praise from the Sheehan YA Book Prize judges was so encouraging, and my favorite blurb later came from award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones who said, “This is a richly layered story, visceral and thoughtful in equal parts.” It’s nerve-wracking to release a book out into the world, and this validation came at just the right time.

Readers- Have you seen any of the National Park Service brown signs with poetry? Check out Kristin's Facebook post about this!

Thanks so much for interviewing me and helping to spread the word about my book!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tuesday Museday is hungry

A few years ago I bought a book for my husband called How to Read Literature Like A Professor. While I love genre fiction, he prefers literary fiction, and I thought this book would be right up his alley. (Apparently there is one for How to Read Novels, too.)

I read the book, and even gleaned useful information, such as this gem about eating:
"Writing a meal scene is so difficult, and so inherently uninteresting, that there really needs to be some compelling reason to include one in the story."

The author, Thomas C. Foster, goes on to describe a couple literary examples of meals described in books that tell much more than just the plain facts of what a character is eating. How characters eat around each other can be a way of showing how they feel about the other people in the scene. A character's description of the food (if you are using 1st person POV) can convey his or her feelings toward the meal or the companions.

The possibilities are myriad. But remember: if it's just about the food, you should probably cut it out.

As always with Tuesday Museday, I'm offering up query letter critiques! If you'd like a critique, please say so in the comments, and I'll select a few commenters to receive critiques. AND! If you are participating in #DVPit (10/5 and 10/6!) and would like your Twitter pitch critiqued, I'm happy to do a few of those, as well!