Friday, July 21, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #33

July 21st is National Junk Food Day! And who doesn't love some crispy potato chips, donuts, candy, etc? In 50 words or less, let us see your devotion to your favorite (or favorites) junk food. Just don't leave crumbs on your keyboard!

Winner will be announced Sunday evening. Rules can be found here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About... The Synopsis!

Contest season is coming around the bend, and whether you're planning to submit to Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, Nightmare on Query Street, or another contest, there are some common requirements for every submission package. Over the next few weeks, Operation Awesome will be giving and rehashing tips, advice, and 'lessons learned' about each of these required pieces of the submission package.

Take a look at last week's post on THE FIRST CHAPTER, and the post from two weeks ago on QUERY LETTERS. Now, let's turn our attention to THE SYNOPSIS.

Top Synopsis Tips from the Operation Awesome Crew

KARA: It's okay if your synopsis is boring. Be sure to hit the important story beats, and how your character gets to each one. And for the love of everything, include how the story ends. This isn't the place to be coy about it.

MELINDA: Don't overload your synopsis with the names of every character in your book. Mention the three main characters, four if you must. For those of us who read through synopses, a bunch of names is not only annoying, but  meaningless. I want the plot and a couple of important characters. That's it.

J: Make sure we know what to care about. The best examples include survival, hunger, sex, protection of a loved one, and/ or fear of death.

LEANDRA: Don't go chasing plot bunnies in your synopsis. Stick to the meat! (Jaime says it so much better below, lol!)

JAIME: Beginning, middle, and end. That should be your mantra while you're writing your synopsis. Make sure you're establishing your story's 'normal' at the beginning of the book, detailing what changes (the inciting incident), tracking all the main events of the plot, and then giving away the ending.

Operation Awesome's Library of Posts About The Synopsis

Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis: Part One
Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis: Part Two
How to Write a Synopsis for a Book with an Unusual Structure
Writing a Synopsis When You Have Two (or More!) Viewpoint Characters
Ten (so far) synopsis critiques between February and May 2017

As always, if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Chasing Eveline

1- Is the band "Chasing Eveline" based off of any actual 80's bands?

Great question! The band Chasing Eveline is not based on any one particular band, but it is influenced by several of my favorite bands from the 80s: The Cure, Depeche Mode, and The Smiths. I channeled into my Chasing Eveline songs all the feelings those bands evoked in me.

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

I’m only ready to do things once I have determined that I’m ready. I’m a bit stubborn, I suppose. So I can’t start writing a story until I’ve lived with it in my mind for a while and I’m certain I have a sense of the characters and where I want the story to go. This could be traced back all the way to my childhood. My mom tried to get me to read, but I refused. I crossed my arms and said, “No.” At some point—after the time when I should have already started to read—I walked into my parents’ bedroom with a book in my hand and said, “Okay, I’m ready to read now.” That book was Timmy Mouse. And I haven’t stopped reading since then.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I can’t pinpoint an exact event or moment that ignited my passion for writing, but I think it stems from my imagination. When I was younger, I had two imaginary friends: People and Kikibrumbrum. I cannot explain the names J, sorry! But I seem to have always had wild stories and imaginary people swirling about in my mind, and that has led me to want to be a writer.

4- Have you been to Ireland?

Yes! It was amazing. The countryside is so beautiful, just like in the movies. And the people are fantastically friendly. One favorite memory of Ireland was sitting in a pub for hours chatting with all sorts of people, and another one was eating fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper by the side of the road!
Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- Would you share a picture with us of Mr. Darcy posing with your book?

Mr. Darcy gives it two paws up! And he’s even started reading it!

6- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

Each week I write a Photo Story on my blog. It’s so much fun to pen a story around a random photo. It also helps me work on my creativity and writing each week. Also in the short term, I’m working on a novel to be completed by August 1. In the long term, I hope to continue writing novels. Whether they get published or not, I want to make these stories inside me come to life.

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

So many people are cheering me on and helping me through this journey. So I’ll pick an obvious cheerleader: my mom! She’s so excited about my release. She’s handed out bookmarks to all her friends and talks up my book to everyone she encounters. She loves hearing about the process and wants to buy Chasing Eveline from every site where it’s available! Moms are the best, aren’t they?

8- I see you want to have a cookie delivery service. Do you have a favorite cookie recipe?

I love cookies, but I can’t eat just one. That’s why I wish there was a cookie delivery service that could deliver just one cookie to me on those nights when I’m craving a sweet treat! My favorite cookie is probably a snickerdoodle. And not just because I think that’s a fun name! I love the cinnamon-sugary goodness.

9- 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 hope people will connect with the difficulty of hanging on to memories as they start slipping away. I hope there will be a few tears in some of the scenes with Ivy and her dad. There are for me because those scenes developed out of real situations in my life. But most of all, I hope there will be laughter. Ivy gets herself into some very awkward situations, something that hasn’t stopped for me even in adulthood!

10- What are your feelings on dog-eared pages, breaking spines, and notes in book margins?

I looove dog-eared pages. One of my favorite bookish things to do is to go back into books I’ve already read and turn to one of those dog-eared pages and read the quote that resonated so strongly with me. A flood of memories washes over me, and I love that feeling. The same applies to notes in the margins.

11- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

I took an online class through LitReactor when I first started writing YA. It was taught by an agent/writer, so I learned a lot about opening scenes, writing for the YA audience, and about what agents/publishers look for.

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

Ivy’s dad has the habit of tousling Ivy’s hair whenever he says hello or goodbye. He’s done this since Ivy was a kid.

13- #DiversityBingo2017 What's your favorite book that covers a square on the card?

I enjoyed Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Willowdean was a great character.

14- What are your feelings on the Gilmore Girls reboot (A Year in the Life) on Netflix?

I love everything Gilmore Girls. I have so many lines from all the episodes memorized. The reboot was fun to watch. I was so happy to get some more of Kirk and Rory and Luke. I wish there had been more Jess!

15- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Ivy is both cynical and hopeful at the same time. Since her mom left her, she doesn’t have much faith in permanent relationships. Yet, her heart never fails to believe in love and happy endings.

16- What is your favorite band of all time?

I love so many bands, but the one I’d have to name as my favorite of all time is The Smiths. Those songs really captured so many of my feelings then and now. The lyrics, Morrissey’s emotional pleas, and Johnny Marr’s guitar…I love it all.

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

I definitely am drawn to covers. But it can’t just be a beautiful cover. I’m most likely to buy a book if it’s YA contemporary or some comedian’s book. I love coming of age drama, but I also love a good laugh! I also stalk authors. So if an author I love has a new book out, I’ll buy it automatically.

18- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I don’t have any sales numbers expectations or review expectations. I just want my book to matter, even if it’s just to one person.

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

I’m really not good at being patient. I queried agents for about a year, but it bothered me to be waiting for someone to choose me, to validate my writing as publishing-worthy. So I wanted to take things into my own hands. I decided to start querying small publishers as well. I had a lot more success and ultimately signed with Pen Name Publishing. This has been the best decision I could make for my writing career. Not only am I not still waiting for someone to choose me, but I’m working with a very supportive publisher and have had a lot of input during the entire publication process.

20- What is one discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I’d love to hear how music has influenced people’s lives and what their favorite bands are. That’s something I hope Chasing Eveline makes people think about.

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

Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight writer of Chasing Eveline
About Chasing Eveline:

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never find joy in the present.

Author bio:
Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight
Leslie Hauser teaches middle school English and history. She is a Midwesterner at heart—born in Cincinnati, Ohio—but currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with her dog Mr. Darcy. She loves cupcakes, coffee, and most of all—music. You can find her on Twitter or Instagram at @LHauser27 or visit her web site at

Chasing Eveline

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Put First Things First

I'm back with another habit from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that I hope will help you become a more effective writer!

Put First Things First means that you must decide which things are most important to you, and make time for them. 

I have always been the type of person who tries to find time in my schedule to write. "I'll write after I wash the dishes. After the kids are in bed. Once I've written my next Operation Awesome post." And this works. You can finish a short story, poem, or novel on found time.

But if you want to prioritize writing time in your life, it's not enough to just hope you'll find some time in your busy schedule to write. You must make time to write. "Writing time is from 9pm to 10pm. I'll wake up an hour earlier than normal and use that time to write. Kids' nap time is writing time, not chore time." You get the picture.

Sometimes this mean taking time from other activities to make writing time, which can be a struggle at first. But I've found that the more frequently I block out writing time, the more I get done at other times in the day so that I can write without distraction later. This is one reason that I love participating in NaNoWriMo and CampNaNo. In order to make my word goal, I have to make time for writing every night, and I usually don't feel guilty about the things I'm giving up to do so.

What do you do to make time for writing?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Picture Perfect Book Launch Party

I have an obsession with book launch parties. I regularly search #booklaunchparty on Instagram, checking out what fun parties authors are throwing. You see, after reading & writing, my third passion is party planning. Finger foods and desserts are my favorite kinds of foods, and then you add in themes & color schemes, and shopping trips to Hobby Lobby, and I'm in heaven!

So when I ran across Carrie Anne Noble's book launch party for her latest novel, The Gold-Son, I just had to share. I love how perfectly she incorporated a forest theme that goes along with the tree on The Gold-Son's cover, and the beautifully set up food table.

(picture by Carrie Anne Noble)

(picture by Carrie Anne Noble)

To see more pictures of the lovely event (there are rainbow cupcakes & bat cookies!), make sure to visit Carrie Anne's blog. And how good does The Gold-Son sound?!

“The story is, simply, beautiful.” —Fictionist Magazine

All sixteen-year-old Tommin wants is to make beautiful shoes and care for his beloved grandmother, but his insatiable need to steal threatens to destroy everything. Driven by a curse that demands more and more gold, he’s sure to get caught eventually.

When mysterious Lorcan Reilly arrives in town with his “niece,” Eve, Tommin believes the fellow wants to help him. Instead, Lorcan whisks him off to the underground realm of the Leprechauns, where, alongside Eve, he’s forced to prepare to become one of them.

As Lorcan’s plans for his “gold-children” are slowly revealed, Tommin and Eve plan their escape. But with Tommin’s humanity slipping away, the fate-crossed pair has everything to lose unless they can find a way to outsmart a magical curse centuries in the making.

Amazon | B&N

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About... The First Chapter!

Contest season is coming around the bend, and whether you're planning to submit to Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, Nightmare on Query Street, or another contest, there are some common requirements for every submission package. Over the next few weeks, Operation Awesome will be giving and rehashing tips, advice, and 'lessons learned' about each of these required pieces of the submission package.

Take a look at last week's post on QUERY LETTERS. Now, let's turn our attention to THE FIRST CHAPTER.

Top First Chapter Tips from the Operation Awesome Crew

KARA: I know I've talked about this before, but it bears repeating: If the inciting incident doesn't happen in your first chapter, then your book is starting in the wrong place. The inciting incident is the thing that happens, without which, there would be no book. It's the thing that changes the status quo for your main character and sets them on the course of events that form your novel. Give your first chapter to your CPs and ask them if they can identify what the inciting incident is. If they can't, you've got work to do.

MELINDA: Drop me into a scene. I get too many submissions where the first chapter is all inside protagonist's head, telling the reader how they met their best friend, about their relationship with their parents, about why their preferred type of cheese is Gouda. Something needs to happen in your first chapter and that something needs to be important to the overall story.

J: I should have a question in my mind driving me to read onward. Also, I should be able to figure out what genre your book is by now. (Something dramatic happened, something paranormal appeared, my heart jolted from a scary scene, I laughed, I lusted, there was a crime, I encountered something from days gone by, etc.) Finally, I shouldn't have too many characters to juggle in my mind yet. One to four is ideal. Five to seven is gray area. Over seven characters in Chapter One is a red flag.

LEANDRA: For me, I like to see something unusual in the first chapter. If it's the character getting out of bed, thinking about their day, eating breakfast--for me, nothing will have me closing a book faster. Give me something besides the norm.

JAIME: To me, the most important factors in deciding whether to read a book are the concept and the voice. Now, if I'm thinking about buying a book, I already know the concept (from the back cover, Amazon description, etc.). So the first chapter's job is to hook me with the main character's voice. I will follow a great main character almost anywhere, but I won't necessarily keep up with a great concept if I don't care about the main character. In other words, your first chapter needs to establish your main character's voice, first and foremost.

Operation Awesome's Library of Posts About The First Chapter

Weaving a Colorful Tapestry of Page-Turning Story
What First Impression is Your Character Giving?
Activate Your Story

Monday, July 10, 2017

Pass Or Pages July 2017 Entry Form

We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for Contemporary Romance novels. The entry window closes at 6pm Eastern time on Wednesday July 12th. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About... Query Letters!

Contest season is coming around the bend, and whether you're planning to submit to Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, Nightmare on Query Street, or another contest, there are some common requirements for every submission package. Over the next few weeks, Operation Awesome will be giving and rehashing tips, advice, and 'lessons learned' about each of these required pieces of the submission package.

So, without further ado, let's start with QUERY LETTERS.

Top Query Tips from the Operation Awesome Crew

KARA: Specific details are what make query letters stand out for me when I read them. "Character meets a horrible fate" is not as eye-catching as "Character will be kicked out of the house and be at risk of being eaten by zombies." Take out all the vague phrases in your query letter and provide specifics instead. Don't worry about a "spoiler," because query letters are meant to get an agent/editor interested in your novel, and specific details are what do that.

MELINDA: Please don't tell me you've been writing since you were a kid or that your book is sure to be a bestseller. You have no idea how many times I read those words. They scream, "novice." We've all been writing since we were kids, and we all have hopes of our books being bestsellers. Tell me something relevant that will make me want to read more. Leave out the fluff.

J: If you're going to compare your book to another book, that other book better
  • be in the same AGE market as your book.
  • not be a cross-genre seller (Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games, The Shining... if it's a top 10 best-seller, NO, don't use it).
  • be in the same genre as your book.
  • have enough in common with your book that one can read your query and the online description blurb of the book and draw parallels.
"It's just like 'A History of the World in 6 Glasses,' except it makes no reference to real history, and it's about vampires, so the only drink is blood, and the target audience is pre-school. But otherwise, it's totally the same." No.

The purpose of book comparisons is to figure out which 500 people regular readers to market your book to first. Sure, everyone might love your book later, but all books have to start with a core audience. Sticking with my ridiculous example, "A History of the World in 6 Glasses" would first have been marketed to people who enjoy food history books. Would fantasy writers love the book for the new world-building angle? You bet! But they aren't the core audience, they're not where the focus belongs during the initial launch. The book isn't shelved with writing books, it's shelved with gastronomy history. If there were a magazine ad campaign, the ads would be in "Food Network Magazine" not in "Apex."

LEANDRA: Have an intriguing first line. You can't land the fish if you don't hook it first. ;)

JAIME: Make sure you answer three simple questions. What does my main character want? What's standing in their way? What will happen if they don't succeed?

Operation Awesome's Library of Posts About Writing Query Letters

Query Writing 101: Writing a Basic Query
Query Writing 102: Query Dos and Don'ts
The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Query Letters

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July 2017 Pass Or Pages Agent Panel

Meet the agents who will critique your Contemporary Romance entries!

Agent Tri­cia Skin­ner was raised in Detroit, Michigan. She obtained her undergraduate degree from the nationally acclaimed Journalism Institute for Media Diversity at Wayne State University and earned her graduate degree from Southern Methodist University. Professionally, she began her writing career as a newspaper reporter and wrote for The Detroit News, Investor’s Business Daily, MSN, and The Houston Chronicle. She’s covered small & minority business, personal finance, and technology.

Tricia has 20 years of experience working with the video game industry in various roles, including public relations, industry relations, and writing/editing. She is also a hybrid author of passionate urban fantasy (represented by Fuse co-founder Laurie McLean).

After three years as an agent at the L. Perkins Agency, Rachel Brooks joined BookEnds in June 2017. While at LPA she established a mix of romance, young adult, and cozy mystery clients. Prior to that she was apprentice to agent Louise Fury.

Rachel has been an avid reader and organization fan since childhood. In elementary school, she played "librarian" in her bedroom and forced her parents to "check out" her books, with the ironing board as her reference desk counter and a beloved thrift store stamper used on her homemade due-date cards. Her lifelong love of both books and business made the perfect pairing for entering the publishing industry.

Originally from Washington (and then from all over as an Air Force brat), Rachel now resides with her gamer husband and chatty rescue cat. When not working, her other interests include trying new recipes, playing World of Warcraft, and spending time by the ocean.

Kelly has spent her whole life with a book in her hands. Whether it's from reading, writing, or day dreaming, her mind has always been up in the clouds wishing her fantasy stories would come true. Down on earth, somewhere between reading during science class, writing while she should be sleeping, and spending her social hours pretending she wasn't actually a closet nerd, she finally realized that her life would be a lot happier if she just accepted her love of books.

A recent graduate of West Chester University, she earned her B.S.Ed. in English and went to pursue a career in teaching. Little did she know that despite all of her hard work, the environment she ended up in would be one she disliked. After taking a step back and reassessing her life, she realized that maybe she should have focused on the world of literary agents and publishing a long time ago.

When not working as a book nerd, Kelly can be found dancing, hiking, riding horses, perfecting her yoga technique, blogging, and writing her own manuscript. If you're lucky, you might even be able to catch her flying around the world, saving lives. She is superwoman after all!

Details for July 2017 Pass or Pages:

Entry starts: Monday, July 10, 2017, at 6 a.m. Eastern
Ends: Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 6 p.m. Eastern
Category/Genre: Contemporary Romance
How To Enter: Fill out the entry form on the contest post when it goes live.
What Is Required: Your query (NO BIO or personalization for agents), your first 250 words, a complete and polished MS.

You can also read more about the rules here.

The winning entries with agent commentary will be posted on Operation Awesome the week of July 24th, one entry each day. If you aren't comfortable with having your entry (which will be anonymous) shared on the blog, please don't enter Pass or Pages!

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments or tweet @OpAwesome6. Also, feel free to chat about the contest with fellow participants on the hashtag #PassOrPages.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Understanding "Show Don't Tell"

Show don't tell is a mantra among writers. While the phrase is often said, it is seldom understood.

Telling feeds the reader information, while showing allows the reader to gain information through experiencing it themselves. Instead of telling the reader a character is sad, we show the sadness through the characters wrinkled brow and glassy eyes.  Instead of telling the read it's raining, we show the water droplets hitting the character's glasses and dripping onto her cheeks.

The reader wants to feel what the character is feeling. When we "tell," the reader may know what the character feels, but they don't feel it with her. We want to invite readers into the story, not as observers, but as participants. Telling creates narrative distance, while showing places the reader in the protagonist's shoes.

One easy way to tell if you're telling rather than showing is if you name a feeling.

Examples of telling:

The cast walked onto the stage and bowed as Angela clapped with excitement.

Clarence dug his shovel into the earth, exhaustion weighing him down.

In both cases, the feeling is named--excitement and exhaustion. We shouldn't have to tell the reader Angela is excited if she jumps out of her seat and claps and whistles. We know by the context that Angela is excited. In the same way, we can know Clarence is exhausted by the way he wipes the sweat off the back of his neck and how his muscles shake every time he plunges the shovel into the dirt. With that information, we know Clarence is exhausted because we experience the fatigue with him.

Go through your manuscript and find places where you've named the feeling and work toward eliminating those tells by showing the reader what your character is feeling.


Melinda Marshall Friesen writes YA and adult speculative fiction. When she's not writing, she's marketing books for Rebelight Publishing.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest Winner #32

Thank you to our entrants! Both were very good pieces, but our winner this time is Audrey Rich, whose story had a nice little twist to it. Congrats, Audrey!


I bury my head in my mom’s body avoiding the fingers.
“Fiery, be brave. You’re almost up.”
“I don’t want to. Let me stay with you.”
She clears her throat. “You can’t. We’re all preparing to go. And the smallest are first.”
“I’m scared.” My body and hair jiggle.
“This is what we were made for.” Her body touches mine. “It’ll be fine.”
My voice rises two decibels, “It won’t. We’re about to die.”
She frowns. “We give mini-thrills, so step up, Firecracker.”
The fingers reach for me, holding me tight, before the excruciating heat consumes me.
I’m dying...