Monday, November 19, 2018

A Depressed Writer: I've Been Dropping the Ball

I've been meaning to write this post for ages — since the end of September, at least. Or that's when I first had it scheduled. I probably could have penciled it in even before then, though.

It just seems like I've been floundering everywhere lately. No matter how great my intentions and my desire to be healthy, whole, balanced, productive, happy, I seem to keep shirking at least one if not most of my promised duties.

There's just so much that I wish I could take on and commit to:

  • Work full-time so I can pay my bills, have a fulfilling career, make friends with a totally new set of people I never would have crossed paths with otherwise but whom I adore. 
  • Write all the time, jotting down ~1,500 words a day on whatever novel I'm drafting and still have time to pen the occasional essay, plus my weekly blog post here, as well as on my personal blog...and don't forget the poems!
  • Read allllll the books! The new ones that come out every week in YA, my preferred age category, as well as the occasional foray into Adult. But I also have so many friends who are writers, and I want to read their manuscripts! Oh, and don't even get me started on all the biographies, memoirs, history books, and celebrity humor books I want to devour...
  • Socialize literally every day of the week, either before or after work and for at least four hours a day on my "weekends." I'm an extrovert, so being around others energizes me, and it's the best way for me to process my life, but it's also one of the ways in which my mental health stays regulated. For some reason I need human contact to stay mentally healthy.
  • Sleep, like, eight or nine hours a night and wake up fully refreshed.
  • Watch TV and have other "down-time" to do fun stuff that's hobby-like...including, you know, finding a hobby for the first time in my 25 years. Guys, I don't have any quirky talents other than writing and being snarky. Which means the way I pass the time in my off hours is to keep working, and bite the heads off my friends. Not that I don't enjoy it, I just think maybe they don't, you know? 😂
  • Self-care! The basics plus whatever fun advanced stuff there is, like go for a manicure, get a haircut, go shopping...whatever!
That's my list. For the past few months I've consistently succeeded at not shirking one and only one of those bullet points: the job one.

Granted, it's a ridiculously important one! I'm never gonna be one to tell you not to prioritize your career, not just because it's a responsibility you've agreed to but also because of the aforementioned it's how you pay your bills and keep a roof over your head, clothes on your body, food in your belly. But there are seven items on that list! I'm doing one? Something's wrong here.

Again, I've been trying to write this post for almost two months. And somehow, two months later, I still don't know what I'm trying to say with it. 

Except I guess, here I am, confessing: I'm failing this. I'm overworked, overcommitted, under-energized, stressed out, harried. I haven't written in ages. I decided I would do NaNoWriMo this year, and here it is the 19th day of the month and not only have I not so much as announced my novel, I don't even have a freaking title for it!

Self-care? What's that! I shower sometimes. I drop my clothes off at the laundromat. That's about it.  
A manicure, a salon, shopping? Ha! When my clothes get worn through I order new ones online and hope they fit. 

I do watch too much TV, but that's just because I can't work and sleep all the time, and I'm too tired to read or write in the other hours. 

What I'm saying is: I've dropped the ball, hard. In fact, I've dropped it so hard, I honestly don't even know where it rolled off to. It's entirely possible I dropped it out of the subway on the bridge during a thunderstorm like a month and a half ago and it was swept away to the depths of the East River.

At the same time, I also managed to stay alive. And that's a shockingly big deal. During the same two months I've been thinking of writing this post about how I've failed, I missed an appointment with my doctor and started becoming truly depressed. Eventually I ran out of medication, which exacerbated the depression.

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of mental illness and suicidal ideation/attempt to follow for the next two (2) paragraphs. Please skip to the *** if you will be triggered by that discussion!!

I reached the lowest point, of wishing I were dead. Of wandering around wondering how to become so. And then a few hours later...I saw someone try to die. In a manner I had often fantasized about acting upon, three years ago 
It horrified me, it sent my body into shock, but once I recovered from that (thanks in part to knowledge that the person was somehow physically safe), I was jolted into a renewed desire to take care of myself.
*** So here I am, a few feet above that rock-bottom, feeling lucky to be alive and realizing that, okay yeah, I did drop the ball, but I also survived. 

I believe I'm what's considered highly-functional depressive, which means that no matter how bad things get, I keep on trucking — until suddenly I don't. My depression doesn't disrupt my day-to-day very much, until it does in a big way, with, say, a hospitalization. People at my jobs often haven't even known I'm diagnosed unless I tell them or there's a crisis.

But it's a reality, and because I am high-functioning, anything that isn't strictly necessary for survival gets shunted to the side. As much as writing is part of my lifeblood, it doesn't quite pay my bills yet. So my novels, my essays, my blogs...they go to the back burner.

I hate that. 

At the same time: I refuse to beat myself up for this reality. I did not choose to be depressed. I did not walk into it, I did not do anything to bring this diagnosis upon myself. I'm 25, and I'm imperfect, but I'm doing my best.

Have I been dropping the ball? Yes.

Am I going to strive to pick it back up again, starting now? You bet.

This image is only relevant because it's of me (hiiiiii friends!!) but also it's of me in New York City and honestly? That has always and likely will always mean conquering to me: my fears, the struggles of not getting a job, and freaking high rent. 

Hey. Love you guys. If there are any areas where you feel like you're dropping the ball, I want you to know it's okay to show grace you yourself. Life is hard, and busy, and there's demands on our time. We're in this together. 

What's some advice you wish someone would give you, that you'd love to pass on to someone else? Share in the comments!

Oh, and if you are dealing with depression or another mental illness and wish to speak with someone, I urge you to reach out to a friend, local doctor, therapist, trusted family member, or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is available 24 hours a day in the US at 1-800-273-8255.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Operation Awesome #NaNoWriMo Update Post

NaNoWriMo Operation Awesome


Click for a Plot Camel
In my neck of the woods, we were slammed with a major snowstorm. It was far worse than originally predicted. People were trapped in their vehicles for hours.
And, apparently, so was a camel named Einstein. He was let out of his trailer, both for his own safety (in case someone would crash into the trailer), and so the truck could make it up the hill easier. The camel was on his way to a show the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia had at the Kimmel Center.
But these reasons weren't reported at first.
All people knew is they were stuck in traffic in Eastern Pennsylvania, and there was suddenly a camel out in the snow.
We don't have indigenous camels.
Camels generally make people think of sand, not snow.
It all sounds like a writer in the throes of NaNoWriMo including a random prompt and not caring that it makes no sense at all.
So, there you have it. If PA can have a camel on a highway in a snowstorm, you can have whatever absurd thing you've tossed in your novel in the quest for 50k words.



#NanoStaffRules


https://nanowrimo.org/forums/all-ages-coffee-house/threads/458107
That's the link to the thread to thank the staff for all they do.




I'm at my half way point! How are you doing?
- J

Friday, November 16, 2018

#QueryFriday


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 11/18 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!

-Nathaniel

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Dear O'Abby: I think I'm telling my story wrong.

Dear O'Abby,

I'm doing NaNo this year, and am doing really well.  Almost at the 25K point.  But I realized yesterday, that I'm telling the story from the wrong POV.  I started writing this story in first person, with two narrators each taking a chapter in turn.  But now I'm realizing the book would be better served by being written in close third person POV.  How should I proceed?  I feel like I'm making such great progress, but I know the way I'm telling the story is wrong.

Kind regards,

Baffled.


Dear Baffled,

You are not alone.  Figuring out you've picked the wrong way or character to tell your story is a very common writing problem.  And probably one of the most frustrating and painstaking to try and fix.

But you have the advantage of having figured it out early, before the whole book is finished.

The way I see it, you have two choices.  Keep going the way you are now and finish the book.  Changing the character voices and perspectives mid-stream might be too challenging when you're working to a tight deadline like NaNo.  You can go back afterward and change the POV when you edit if you feel the same way when you're finished.

Or, if you think you can switch without it being too difficult, start writing in third person and finish the book this way.  In this scenario you will have the advantage of having already found the characters' voices and rhythms in the new POV and rewriting the beginning will be easier.

Just don't stop writing while you figure out what to do.  NaNo is supposed to be a first draft, a vomit draft even.  You expect to do a lot of re-writing once you're finished, so this isn't the end of the world.   Do what you have to do to finish the book.  You can figure out what to do with the POVs later.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Rachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Resistant: A Novel by Rachael Sparks


1- What's the coolest part of the Asheville Museum of Science?

There’s a huge dinosaur in the center! I’m a sucker for him. Photo included.
Rachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book


2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Write. Revision is easier on actual words. Read other authors in your genre for research. Review harshly works you like — it teaches you what you don’t like.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

Mostly a love of reading. I knew I wrote well for small stuff but doubted I could finish a novel-sized project. Once I started, it was a tidal wave of ideas coming out that I'd filed in some secret cabinet in my head.

4- Did your degree in Microbiology help when writing Resistant?

Immensely. I will admit, though, I got that degree a wee bit ago, so I still had to research and confirm my education was current. Fortunately, that’s also part of my day job.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

@rubyjune34 and I’d love for you to shout out to @JCastleWrites @kristinkaye and @mindytarquini

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book in a medical setting (or surrounded by medical supplies perhaps)?

I don't have one yet but I am now so inspired!!
Here's a collage of Instagram pics from Bookstagrammers.
Rachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book ~ a collage of Instagram pics from Bookstagrammers


7- What's up with creepy, but awesome looking, cover logo of the spider-screw thing?

It’s a bacteriophage, a virus that hunts bacteria (yes it’s really a thing)! But you’ll have to read it to understand the cover ;)

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

Short term, I would like to intensively revise the new MS I’ve finished. I have some rules for it I want to achieve. Long term, I’d like to continue producing novels that people enjoy and make it a FT job!

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: David Walton @davidwaltonfic
Title:The Genius Plague
Love because: Walton thought up a plausible plot device with fungi that invade brains . . . but he really made it magical in the way it manipulates people to its own devices. Great novel.



10- Where did you come up with the Twitter handle @RubyJune34?

34 is my favorite number. Ruby and June were my grandmothers. One taught me elegance and fashion, the other taught me grit and cooking. I joined Twitter when I lived in Austin and it was so new that nobody liked it — and I just took that handle and never used Twitter much again till 2016! It seemed more trouble to change it.

11- 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 excitement, anticipation, that romantic twist in your chest, and some HELL YEAH moments when things go right. I hope all the scenes resonate with readers!

12- Are there sexist tropes in most post-apocalyptic stories, in your opinion?

Bizarre to admit this - I’m not a reader of post-apocalyptic tales! Maybe there are, but . . . in a truly post-apocalyptic world, a uterus should be the most valuable possession anyone could desire. Themyscira’s matriarchal world order would be the smartest plan if you needed to repopulate the earth.

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

Critiques from other authors, and re-reading work I enjoyed but with a reviewer’s eye. I don’t post reviews online, just ratings, and only if they are good, but reviewing works from Bronte to Cussler to Crichton helped me see what I didn’t want to do.

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

One of the protagonists is scarred from a medical experiment, with swaths of dark blue skin crossing his face and entire body. And he’s the love interest!

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? https://diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Army, a main character, is a POC natively from Trinidad, orphaned by the infections and then adopted by a soldier’s family.

16- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Army, actually. He’s really funny but he’s also a soldier and very focused. He’s fun to write dialogue for, as I think he views the world through a unique slant.

17- Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?

Absolutely. It’s literally describing the world I see developing if we don’t stop abusing antibiotics, and it describes exactly how that world came about, through our own irresponsibility.

18- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

More books printed in Dyslexie font and available as an option to order alongside every book. As a kid, reading was my lightspeed train to the whole world, and it saddens me that many kids and adults avoid it because of reading disabilities. https://youtu.be/qVaeGOflF7w

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

Covers and synopses win my love. If a synopsis is compelling, won’t the whole book be? I’ve also learned to ignore rankings, even before I had any. One author I adore, whom I won’t tag here, got some shit reviews for a literary fiction novel that left me ugly crying on a plane.

20- Care to share a fun picture or two from your Oct 25 Book Launch Party at the Asheville Museum of Science?

A game we played at the launch party—who got the deadliest germ?!
Rachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First BookRachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First BookRachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First BookRachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

21- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I’m for books sold, but I’ll settle for one happy fan that wants a sequel or more of my work!

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

I went with hybrid publishing after immersing myself into learning about all the different types, and deciding that I wanted to have more say and co-invest in myself...NOW.

23- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

Bookstagramming rocks with its visual artistry evoking the book’s setting or the pleasure of reading. Contests—especially Rafflecopter-type ones whose prizes are the book plus a few cool, related items in exchange for a share+follow—often win me over because, seriously, I could always use a new [fill in the blank — who cares, it’s free AND new!].

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

What is your favorite pasta? Not limited to Italian. [links to] Photos are encouraged.

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

http://Rachaelsparks.com
Rachael Sparks was born in Waco, Texas, holds a degree in Microbiology, and has pursued a lifelong interest in infectious diseases and the science of human health. She loves to write, make pasta, eat pasta, think about pasta, and read.
"This is a chilling examination of a possible future, filled with lovable characters, excellent pacing, and sharp sociopolitical criticism." –Publisher's Weekly
@rubyjune34
Instagram rubyjune34
@RachaelSparksAuthor
http://www.facebook.com/rachaelsparksauthor


Resistant: A Novel by Rachael Sparks

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

November Pass or Pages Details


It's time to announce the category and genre of our next Pass Or Pages contest! In November, Pass Or Pages will focus on: 

Adult Horror

Please do not send us YA or MG entries; we can tell the difference.

Here are the important dates for this round:
November 20th: Agent panel announcement
November 26th-28th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
December 10th-14th: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Best of luck!

Friday, November 9, 2018

#QueryFriday


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 11/11 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!

-Nathaniel

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Dear O'Abby: My body is conspiring against me winning NaNo. Help!

Dear O'Abby,

I signed up to do NaNo this year for the first time and a week in, I'm already struggling.  I did tons of prep beforehand and I know what I want to write, but I have a physical condition which makes it difficult to sit in one position very long, and it's hindering my ability to reach the necessary word count each day.  I already have anxiety issues, and not reaching my daily word count is making me even more anxious. And that's making it even harder to write. Do you have any advice?

Yours,

Word Panic

Dear Word Panic,

I don't know exactly what your situation is, but you mention physical discomfort while sitting too long.  Is there a possibility you could stand?  I use a standing desk at work and that has immeasurably improved a long-standing struggle I had with arm, back and shoulder pain.  If you can't get yourself a standing desk, it's possible to raise your computer or desk using phone books, bricks, dictionaries and the like.  I also find the kitchen counters are a good height for standing and typing.

If that's not an option, maybe you could break your writing time down into small chunks so you can sit and write only as long as it's comfortable.  Then stop, do something else, and go back to the writing when you feel like you can sit again.  You will soon figure out how many words you can get through in each chunk so you'll be able to figure out how many writing sessions you will need to reach your word count each day, and how to schedule them around the rest of your life.

But even if you don't figure it out, at least you gave it a shot.  You got some words on a page. NaNo isn't for everyone.  Some people thrive on the pressure of having a daily goal to reach, but for others, it's added stress that isn't needed.  Especially while juggling everyday life as well.

If NaNo is making you anxious and you're feeling like you can't cope, it's not the end of the world if you stop.  No one is going to die if you don't write 50,000 words in November.  It's no crime if you take until January to hit that 50K mark.  What's important is that you want to write a book, and you've started it.  Keep writing, even if you're not writing the 1,667 words a day NaNo dictates.  Write what you can and keep going.

X O'Abby

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

NaNoWriMo Can Be Hard

We’re nearly a week into NaNoWriMo already! Don’t forget that it’s never too late to start; when it comes to words, pennies are money – each one counts. The only person you're writing for is yourself!

This year, I’m participating in a sort of “team challenge” for NaNoWriMo. In late October, people signed up to be on teams based on the age range and genre they’re writing for. Our collective word count is averaged every week, and at the end of November, the team who wrote the most will win some prizes. We have a group chat where we talk about problems we’re having and try to motivate each other. In this discussion, there seem to be some common themes, so I thought I’d address those in case any of you are having the same issues.

  • I started in the wrong place and I’m getting to the inciting incident too quickly/not quickly enough! Okay first things first, what you’re writing is a very, very rough first draft. NaNoWriMo is about getting words on the page, not writing The Perfect Novel™ on the first pass. Just keep going. When NaNoWriMo is over, you can always go back and add more before the inciting incident or remove some material before it.* Don’t get too caught up going back and revising before you’re done, or you’ll never move forward.
  • I’m writing too much, and revisions are going to take forever! Wow you must be writing a lot if you’re having this issue – that’s awesome! Someone on my team had a great suggestion for this: if you feel like you’re over-writing, let it happen. It’s going to stunt your work if you try to edit as you’re writing. So, rather than going back and deleting words during NaNoWriMo (thus losing precious word count pennies), instead put things you think may be too much in [brackets]. Then, at the end of the month, or whenever you finish this draft, you can go back and easily delete these if you need to with a simple “find” function.* Again, don't worry about revisions until it's time to revise.
  • The scenes are out of order! I’ve already written two scenes that I know are in the wrong place in the manuscript, but I made the decision not to adjust them yet. Why? Because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next three weeks. Right now, it feels like things are happening out of order, but maybe next week it’ll turn out that those scenes are exactly where they need to be. So unless that one scene being a few chapters early is throwing your manuscript completely off the rails in an Unstoppable-style train wreck, at the very least, you’ve written the scenes, and that’s something.
  • I feel like I’m already running out of things to write! Say it with me: That’s okay. Fifty thousand words is the approximate length of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Speak, and The Notebook, among many other popular books. Think about the size of those books in your hands. It’s a lot. It’s more words than a lot of us write in a year, and we’re trying to squeeeeeze out all those words in thirty days. It’s hard work, and it’s okay to get tired. Even if you had a perfect outline and character sheets to rival the most hardcore Dungeons and Dragons players, nothing compares to actually sitting down to write 1,700 words every day for thirty days. It’s okay to get tired, it’s okay to take breaks, it’s okay to not hit fifty thousand words by the end of November. No matter how many words you wrote, you did something amazing.

*If you’re deleting scenes, remember to save them somewhere else in case you want them back later. I have a dedicated Word document just for tidbits of scenes and chapters I had to cut, and I highly recommend it.

I hope some of this has been helpful! Let us know if you have other NaNoWriMo successes or...un-successes. And don’t forget to back. that. draft. up.

Happy writing!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

OA's NaNoWriMo Progress

NaNoWriMo Operation Awesome

National Novel Writing Month is officially upon us! Today is NaNoWriMo's Double Donation Day, so if you can, please donate to the equally-awesome operation they've got going on over there! Here at Operation Awesome, two of us are participating this year, J Lenni Dorner and Amren Ortega. We're excited to share our progress (and pitfalls) with all of you, and hope you'll share with us.

What genre/age are you writing?

Adult Urban Fantasy

Young Adult Contemporary

Are you a planner, pantser, or something in between?

Somewhere between those two. I was going to write a different novel. Then changed my mind a week before NaNo started, so I have a partial outline-like thing going on. It's all because of a non-fiction book I started reading. (More on that another time.)

Usually I'm a plantser - I plan a bit and let the rest come as it may - but I wanted to try something new this year, so I've been planning for about a month and a half. I have a pretty solid outline and a lot of information about my protagonist and antagonist, as well as a plethora of information about robots (which is relevant, I promise). 

What's your word count so far?

4831 at the start of today

3717 at the start of today (J is a rockstar)

How it's going?

Okay so far.

Pretty good! I haven't found myself struggling to meet the word count yet, but it is only day three, so we'll see how I fare in the next twenty-seven days...

Link to your NaNo profile

J Lenni Dorner

Amren Ortega

Lifetime November Achievements

WORDS= 333,263 ~2011 winner; 2012 winner; 2013 winner; 2014 winner; 2015 participant; 2016 winner; 2017 winner; 2018 participant

WORDS= 148,907 ~2014 participant; 2015 participant; 2016 winner; 2017 winner; 2018 participant

Other notable NaNoWriMo achievements

Book published because of the writing challenge= Fractions of Existence

And I did my donation for today!
J's donor gift to NaNoWriMo 2018






For Double Up, I'm going to try to double my word count, so check back on my NaNoWriMo profile tomorrow to see how I did!

Friday, November 2, 2018

#QueryFriday


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 11/4 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!

-Nathaniel

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Dear O'Abby: How long should I wait to hear back from an agent?

Dear OA Abby, 

After reading Pat's WEP entry, I have to wonder...

How long should someone wait to hear back from an email to an agent, editor, etc before checking if the message was ever received? Is there an especially, non-naggy way to say, "Hey! Just checking if you got this. Pass or love, just want to be sure it made it to the inbox."

- A writer who isn't  a canned meat product made mainly from ham


Dear Not-Spam (I hope I can call you that),

This is a good question.  Many agents have an expected response time on their websites, so my advice would be to look for this, and add another two to four weeks to it before nudging for a response.  If there is no response time listed, Query Tracker can be a good resource because other authors often post how long it took for them to get a response.

Or the agent may be a "no response means no" agent in which case you can assume that no reply after  around six weeks is a pass.

If you've done all this, and the agent doesn't mention being a non-responder, it's perfectly okay to give them nudge if it's been a long time.

I would make it something really short and sweet like:

Dear Agent Snail,

I'm enquiring about my query for (Awesome Novel title in a category this agent represents) which was sent on (date at least 8-10 weeks ago, depending on the agent's reported response time).  I know email can be glitchy, so just wanted to check you had received it.

Yours,

Not Spam

And include the original email under the new one so the agent won't have to go trawling through their in box to find it.

Like all things to do with agents, just keep it professional and polite.

Good luck with your book.

O'Abby.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Reyna Marder Gentin's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Unreasonable Doubts: A Novel by Reyna Marder Gentin


1- How's next season looking for the New York Mets, in your opinion?

As a true Mets fan, I will tell you that the Mets will undoubtedly win the World Series in 2019. But more honestly, they have a lot of talent and you never know how far it will take them if their players can stay off the disabled list.

2- How often have people said you look like actress Justine Bateman?

Never!
Reyna Gentin, photo by Ayelet Feinberg & Stephen Friedgood


Gotta find more fans of Family Ties or Men Behaving Badly.

3- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?


Never let anyone tell you that you need to learn how before you write. Get feedback and take it to heart, especially about voice and tone and pacing, but be your own final judge and best advocate.

4- What ignited your passion for writing?

I have always loved to write, from my high school days on the newspaper to philosophy essays in college to my appellate briefs. But what really got my pulse racing was the first time a creative piece – a non-fiction personal essay about my mom – got published on the Internet. Being able to share with readers and interact made all the difference.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

@reynagentin. Please shout out to @jiminhanwriter and @lianecarter

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book somewhere in New York?

My book has not been released yet, so it hasn’t really gotten out and about in New York! I hope to soon have pictures of my book in different exciting locales around the world soon!

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

I have a draft of a middle grade novel that I am shopping around now. My next project is a new novel, tentatively entitled Both Are True.

8- How did working as an appellate attorney representing criminal defendants help you write this book?

In lots of ways! First of all, the legal issues in the novel were inspired by a case that I handled as an appellate attorney. I strived very hard in the novel to have all the legal aspects be accurate so that attorneys reading the book would not say, “hey, that would never happen in real life!” The protagonist, Liana Cohen, is a young public defender who has become disillusioned with the mission of the public defender’s office and the clientele. Although I didn’t ever get to that point, representing indigent defendants charged with the most serious felonies and facing decades in prison is extremely challenging work and can be demoralizing at times. I think I was able to portray that effectively because I had lived it.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: @williamlanday
Title: Defending Jacob
Love because: I loved the intensity of this book and the way the author raised the most sensitive and critical issues about parenting and loyalty and good and evil in a seemingly placid suburban setting.



10- In your opinion, how could people best prepare for later in life, such as making choices while still "middle-aged" so their adult children don't later have to make tough calls on their behalf?

Wow – I think you’ve read some of my personal essays! I guess my best advice would be to always keep the lines of communication open. No topic should be off limits, and if something is genuinely important to you, you should let those around you know so that your wishes can be carried out.

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

I would have to say honestly that my husband is my biggest fan at this point! (In fairness, because the book is not out yet, this is a limited pool!) I think he genuinely loves the writing and the way I express myself, but even more so, I think he loves that I put myself out there and did something bold and new and out of my comfort zone.

12- If you could say one more thing to your mom, what would it be?

My mother and I were very close (as she was with my two sisters as well). We spoke every day, sometimes more than once, and I have no regrets about not saying any particular thing to her. But I would certainly give anything just to be with her again. I remember my rabbi who has since passed away himself saying to me, “it never really gets easier, does it?” and the answer is no, it doesn’t.

13- 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 that people will have empathy for Liana and the very difficult things she has to go through on her way to figuring out whom she can trust and learning what she wants out of her relationships and her career. I think the book has moments of real joy and real sorrow and real triumph, and I hope readers will relate to those moments. I think there are many scenes that will resonate with readers – I think many people will relate to the times when Liana loses her cool out of an excess of confused emotions – everyone has times when they wish they could really say what they think at work or with loved ones, and Liana speaks her mind.

14- Were you and your husband both involved in Orchestra, and if so, what did you two play?

Ha! Yes, we were in the same high school orchestra. I was a very run of the mill violinist, and my husband was an excellent cellist.

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

I have spent the last four years studying different aspects of writing at the Writing Institute of Sarah Lawrence College. I have learned a tremendous amount from my teachers and fellow workshop participants.

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

Danny Shea’s tiny ladybug tattoo, right above his heart.

17- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? https://diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

The protagonist is a woman, and this is very much a story of how one woman chooses to take control of the things in her life that she can control, and let go of those she can’t. Another diverse character in the book is Gerry, Liana’s boss, who is gay and in a committed relationship. Although he and Liana have their differences in approach, Gerry is the character in the novel most devoted to the mission of the Public Defender’s Office and most concerned with protecting the rights of the indigent clients.

18- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Danny Shea is vulnerable yet outwardly self-assured.

19-Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?

The book raises a number of issues that are hot-button issues in society today, although it does not offer any simple answers – just hopefully starts a discussion. The main character is, like many millennials, distanced from her faith. Through a friendship she develops with a rabbi, she becomes more open in learning about how Judaism may speak to issues she is grappling with her life, such as her relationships and her indecision about her job. I think this poses a question regarding how young people might become engaged with their religious communities in a way that recognizes that they need to opt in – that for most young people, religious observance and community involvement is no longer something they have “inherited” from their parents.

20- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

I think authors and readers would be greatly benefited by more flexibility in the publishing industry – more different business models that allow people who don’t have an established platform to break in and share their talent with the world.

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

A personal recommendation from a trusted friend.
Unreasonable Doubts by Reyna Marder Gentin's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book


22- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I’m very up on Sandy Fluck at Bookscover2cover.

23- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I am honestly enjoying the ride and every aspect of getting my book out there. This is a second career for me and an extremely exciting time in my life that I’ve worked very hard for, but which I never expected. I consider my performance a success already.

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

I had worked with an editor as well as workshopped the book for quite a while and I felt it was in very good shape. I was excited to work with a small press that would allow me to have maximum control over the content, as well as over the cover, title, etc. I also was intrigued by working with a publisher that publishes women writers almost exclusively, which allowed me to develop professional relationships with other emerging women writers.

25- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

I am still very new to the marketing aspect of this. I think I got very good exposure by doing give-aways on both blogs and Goodreads – whether that will translate into sales will have to be seen.

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

I would love to know what your readers think about choosing a book that crosses genres, something that I think limited me in finding a larger publishing opportunity – Unreasonable Doubts is part legal thriller, part love story, and is also categorized under Jewish fiction. Is it a plus or minus to be in a number of different categories?

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

REYNA MARDER GENTIN grew up in Great Neck, New York. She attended college and law school at Yale. For many years, she practiced as an appellate attorney representing criminal defendants who could not afford private counsel. Reyna studies at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and her fiction and personal essays have been published in The Westchester Review and online. She lives with her family in Scarsdale, New York. To learn more, please visit reynamardergentin.com.

"An intriguing blend of romance and legal suspense from a new writer to watch.” —WILLIAM LANDAY, New York Times bestselling author of Defending Jacob

“...not only intelligent, but deeply moving. She knows the law and she knows her characters. Well done!” —SUSAN ISAACS, author of Compromising Positions, After All These Years, and As Husbands Go

“Fans of Allison Leotta and Lisa Scottoline will appreciate the domestic and romantic elements as well as the legal intrigue.” —BOOKLIST


Unreasonable Doubts: A Novel by Reyna Marder Gentin

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Prep for National Novel Writing Month

The time is nearly upon us! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is mere days away. Don't worry if you're not feeling ready - is anyone ever ready for this? As we count down the hours, the OA team has some tips for surviving the month of November.


  1. It's okay to fall off the wagon. Accept that this might happen to you. It happens to me every other year: I hit my word count the first three days, forget on the fourth day, and then slide into nothingness with a whopping NaNoWriMo final word count of 5,821 because it was too much of a struggle to catch up. Sometimes life gets in the way, and that's okay. As much as you can, instead of trying to catch up to where the NaNoWriMo site tells you you're supposed to be with your word count, just try to hit that 1,700-word mark for the day. You never know, you might catch up on your own when you get a sudden burst of inspiration!
  2. Find a community. It's been said time and time again: writing is a solitary thing. And with a goal seemingly as unattainable as NaNoWriMo's 50K words, it can feel that much more isolating. Many major cities have write-in events, which are increasingly taking place online. Find a buddy, find a group, find someone on the other side of the globe!
  3. Save everything everywhere. The last thing you want is to be nearly done and lose your manuscript in a sudden computer Blue Screen of Death. Have backups of your backups. Save frequently. Email drafts to yourself, email them to your mom, email them to your high school volleyball coach - just keep backing everything up. Save to a flash drive, print a physical copy, put it on the cloud, do whatever you have to do.
  4. Keep going... The hardest thing about NaNoWriMo is doing it. Whether you're a planner or a pantser or somewhere in between, everything you do before NaNoWriMo can easily seem like it wasn't enough. Just keep pushing forward, even when the writing isn't going well. If you feel like you don't have time to sit down and write, work during your commute by writing on a Google Doc on your phone. Give yourself permission to write badly. This is a first draft; it doesn't have to be perfect. 
  5. ...but you can always stop. When NaNoWriMo gets to be too much, it's okay to shelve a project. Especially as we get toward the end of November and it seems like everyone is claiming their NaNoWriMo win, it's really hard for those of us whose projects just didn't work out for one reason or another: didn't have enough time, lost the thread of the story, couldn't figure out that one plot hole. It's okay to stop. It's okay to say, hey, I thought this story/plot/idea would work, and it just isn't right now. November isn't a magical month where the writing pantheon opens its gates and pours down inspiration onto the masses (as awesome as that would be). It's a month like any other, and sometimes we need a break.

No matter what you end up doing during NaNoWriMo, when it comes to writing, pennies are money - every word counts, and every word matters. Don't worry, just write.

You can find more tips at this link, which is a handout from J's local NaNoWriMo community! If you have more ideas, please leave a comment!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Query Friday!


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 10/28 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!

-Nathaniel

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Dear O'Abby: Is a Small Press Right for Me?

Dear O'Abby,

Your column last week about getting an agent before signing a contract with a small press made me think a lot about small presses.  I have had offers from small presses in the past and turned them down because that wasn't my dream.  Now, several years on, having been agented, on submission for many months without a sale and ultimately dropped by my agent, I'm wondering if I might have been too hasty in dismissing those small press offers.

Do you have any advice?

Regards,

Hasty


Dear Hasty,

This isn't an easy question to answer because this is your career, and in reality, only you can make that decision.  But I can give you some information about small presses that might help you make it.

There are a lot of small presses out there, so before you leap into signing with any of them, do some checking to make sure the one that has offered you a contract is reputable and stable.  There have been too many horror stories about small presses closing and authors struggling to get their rights back and stories about small presses not paying their writers the royalties they've earned.

Writer Beware is a good place to search for red flags, and there is lots of useful information in the forums at Absolute Write, although you will have to trawl through a lot of chatter to get there.  Preditors and Editors was always my go-to, but they seem to be undergoing some changes right now.  But it looks like they will be up and running again soon, so that may be another useful resource.

If you have done your due diligence and think you might be interested in a particular small press, make sure you know what they are offering, both in terms of the percentage of royalties you will be receiving, and services.  Some small presses publish e-books only, so if your dream is to hold a copy of your book in your hot little hand and ruffle through the pages, this isn't going to fulfill that dream.

Most small presses expect you to do the majority of the marketing of your book yourself.  They may send out to a select group of reviewers, splash your cover around in a few social media posts and on their blog, but most of the work will be on your shoulders.  Small presses make their money by publishing a lot of books, so your title will only get pushed until the next one comes along.  And some small presses publish a book a week, or more.  Yours will get lost in the noise unless you have a plan for getting it seen, and probably some money to put behind it.  And the chances are you still won't sell thousands of copies.

So you have to weigh up whether it's worth it.  Self publishing is increasingly simple, and if the small press is only going to format your e-book, assign it an ISBN, give it a cover and load it up on e-book retail sites, you have to consider if the percentage of royalties you are giving the publisher is value for money.  Some small presses have great editors who will help you polish up your book until it's better than the one you submitted, but others do little in the way of editing and the finished products wind up as riddled with errors as some self-published titles.

Another thing to consider is distribution.  If your small press does do print books, how do they get the books into bookstores?  Many small presses rely on print-on-demand (POD) to keep their costs down, which means there are no copies available until they are ordered.  Sure, you can buy a box of your own books and sell them to the stores in your local area, but this isn't an effective distribution method and can often end up with you actually losing money on every book sold.

Yet there is still a certain stigma about self publishing.  Some reviewers refuse to consider self-published titles.  It's a struggle to get self-published books on shelves in stores, and even harder to find an effective way to distribute your self-published novel outside your own local area.  So there is definitely some value in having a publisher's name behind your title.

At the end of the day, you need to weigh the pros and cons of each method for yourself.  And remember, small presses and self publishing aren't your only options.



Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Doreen Spicer-Dannelly's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Love Double Dutch! by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly


1- How did working on "Jump In!" help you write Love Double Dutch!?

“Jump In!” was such a joy to write and I’m so pleased at the success and impact the film had the audience. However it wasn’t the original idea initially I had. Love Double Dutch! is actually the very initial idea. But I held onto the hope that original story would see the light of day one day. And, gladly, here we are.

2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Determined, passionate, strong-willed, competitive, spiritual.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I honestly think my passion for writing was ignited through my love for the arts. When I was a student at the High School for the Performing Arts now, LaGuardia High School, I studied lots of plays and instead of my interest in the characters I was portraying. I was more intrigued by the genesis of the story and the world within the character existed. But even before that, I loved journaling because it just found it so cathartic. It gave me a sense of relief to express my inner most feelings without being judged and I think I fell in love with that felling of release. So couple my love of the arts with the joy journaling, came this idea to merge the two world and creatively weave stories of my life into writing for entertainment.

4- You have quite a few awards and nominations under your belt. Is there a "big fish" you're hoping to achieve one day?

When I think about all the shows and films that are produced, it’s such an honor to be recognized at anytime in the entertainment industry. But because middle grade books are so important for the impact on the tender ages of “tweens”, I think being recognized for this art form takes on much more meaning. My hope has always been for Love Double Dutch! to be appreciated for it’s tale about an African American girl who turns to double-Dutch, a street sport popularized by African American girls, in order to deal with her very American life, including divorce, self-esteem, and racial disposition. For this reason, my fingers are crossed for a Coretta Scott King Award.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with Tiger?

Absolutely. I’ll share a photo of Tiger. He’d love that. He’s a ham. ☺
Tiger with the book Love Double Dutch! ~ Doreen Spicer-Dannelly's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book Tiger, the author's dog, with the book Love Double Dutch! ~ Doreen Spicer-Dannelly's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

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

One of my short time goals is to write the screenplay to Love Double Dutch! And my long-term goal is to write the “to be continued” version of the novel. I didn’t dare say “sequel” because it seems publishers aren’t as excited about sequels. But I’ve already been asked by quite a few fans for a follow up. So maybe to make everyone happy, I’ll call it something different.

7- Is there a story behind the name "Spicerack Productions Inc."?

The funny thing about the name SpiceRack is that almost everyone in my family who bares the name Spicer has been called by the sir name or some variation and Spicer Rack was one of them. So I thought it would be cool to use it as the name for my production company because when spices are added to food it not only adds taste but color as well. Our agenda is diversify children’s entertainment by unearthing stories that might considered unapologetically cultural in origin while making them universally appealing. Jump In! is a good example of that. Stories just become more interesting, informing and palatable for large viewing audience. Imagine if you had to eat the same food with the same flavors every night knowing there are other dishes out in the world? It would be maddening and frustrating. And that’s where the movement for “diversity” comes in. People want to see themselves and their culture explored. With that, we’re trying to keep project diverse with a fresh perspective. I love mixing up casting just the way I like adding different flavoring in my food. For instance I love eggs and avocado for breakfast but I spice it up with 21 Seasonings (Trader Joe’s), turmeric, cayenne (Yup, I like it hot!) with a little turkey patty and small red potato on the side. This meal has everything you need to rev up your metabolism and give you plenty of protein and carbs to keep you satiated for almost half the day. It might sound weird but it’s interesting with a variety of flavors just like our programming options should be.

8- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?

What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book? I don’t have one favorite book but a few and for several different reasons. As an adolescent I loved Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. It was quintessential tween book of its time for girls in my opinion, which is why it’s a classic. I also love Omar Tyree’s Flyy Girl which spoke to my specific demographic—young woman of color, coming of age, relationships and neighborhood social status. Another classic, which so many love as well, is The Alchemist. I consider myself a connoisseur of spiritually driven stories and books on spirituality, and although I don’t like reading books twice I will probably pick that one up again.


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

Actually, there are a few fans who come to mind and for different reasons. But there is a group on Instagram called The Sweetpea Girls and they have reviewed the book, talked about it, promoted it and continue to promote it. I had no idea who they were but I do now and I’m so grateful for their love for Love Double Dutch. There are also little girls who’ve sent me messages telling me how much they loved it, couldn’t put it down and can’t wait for the sequel. That’s really exciting. I also have a mom who tells me her daughter carries it everywhere she goes. That’s just awesome to me. One mom told me how thrilled she was to see her young son totally into it. It’s all so great to hear. The consensus is that kids love that the story isn’t just about double Dutch but about the protagonist, Kayla, who puts her own concerns aside to help her cousin with a bullying issue. They also like that there are other things going on like a first crush, first kiss and how to stay positive through an ominous situation. The thing I’ve learned is that we really don’t know how things effect kids and what they’ll hold onto. I just wanted to make sure they really see there is a lesson on the other side to strengthen them, if they’ll just keep going.

10- 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 the reader will have a sense of courage and self-empowerment, that they hold the power of their dreams within them and they shouldn’t let any person, situation or obstacle get in their way. Two scenes come to mind. There’s a scene where Kayla was hoping her parents would be in the audience for the biggest competition of her life but they’re not, at least unbeknownst to they aren’t there. And just when she seems so disappointed her cousin, Sally, encourages her to go out there and do it for herself and not for anyone else, even her parents. And, she does. I want kids to realize they have a choice at every turn to take control of their destiny, no matter who’s there to support them or not. Another scene is where Sally, confronts her frenemies that I hope will resonate with readers. Whether the reader is a victim of bullying or they are the bully, an opportunity will always present itself to change the course of the relationship. And to realize there is someone there to have your back if they’ll allow someone to support them. In this moment, Kayla had Sally’s back and that’s what I think we need more of—kids supporting one another in times of hardship.

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

Already having a career in writing tv and film industry, I was used to writing to the visual of every scenes and not for the details of back story and what’s in the head of characters. But thanks to, Joquelle S. Caiby, Serendipty Lit, prepared me to pay more attention to detail so when I worked with my editor at Random House, Diane Landolfe, it was on! Diane really made me dig deeper and fine-tune my intention for each concept that made up the entire story. Also reading other people’s works with a scrupulous eye to the emotional tapestry that happens in a novel to tell a compelling story. So thank goodness for great, patient people who helped along the way.

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

The only odd thing I’ll say is that there’s the story that’s being told from Kayla’s point of view but then there are her inner thoughts, which are in italics. I guess the way to explain it is that she has her initial thought, which she expresses and then she has the further inner thoughts that she keeps to herself. We all have those moments when we bite our tongues to protect others and our own integrity so to speak—or not. ☺

13- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? https://diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

First, I am super excited that this movement has take place because it really lifts the self-esteem of children of color and gender diversity amongst others. I just remember all of the school books ever assigned for class reading was all from the perspective of a white male and written by white men. They were great stories but there was no deviation from this trend even through high school. That was really frustrating. No women authors, no women’s pov, and when black people were mentioned in books it was always in a negative light. So it’s no wonder young kids are really making a splash with a demand for change.

In Love Double Dutch, a rendition of Makayla is right on the cover for a reason. My hope was to make little black girls feel proud that their likeness is worthy of the front of a book. Also, I consider the story multi-racial because it involves Kayla and her cousin Sally interacting with girls of other races including a Latina and Caucasians, which Kayla is not used to. So I consider Love Double Dutch to be truly a diverse book for more reasons than it being a story about a 13 yr. old African American girl.

14- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Kayla has a couple of my favorite contradictions whereas I can be super positive at times and preach like I wrote the book on positivity but there are times when I can fall into the negative-outlook hole. Something I’m constantly working on. Also there’s the fact that I’m a little bossy but compassionate—hey, at least I can admit it.

15- Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?

The book can hold a mirror to society in the way the kids are experiencing painful things that sometime their parents are oblivious to. I believe that’s due impart to shame or fear on behalf of the children or they don’t want to be a burden so they don’t talk about it. And parents are sometimes simply oblivious to what’s going on because they are either very busy or simply don’t have enough time to pry problems out of their kids. No one is to blame, it’s just that’s the way things have been for as long as I can remember. But don’t take my word for it because I don’t have kids, however, I do know kids will discuss things with others that they would never tell their parents for fear they would be knocked them off the pedestal their parents put on. I’ve been that kid and I know some of those kids today. Kayla is one of those kids but luckily she finds double Dutch as her coping mechanism as so did I among other sports.

16- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

If I could make one small change that could benefit authors and readers, I would make it mandatory that publishers hold a meet and greet for debut authors before the book drops. This could be sort of what a trailer is to a movie so that the writer can tell the readers what to expect and the readers can have a chance to ask questions and tell the author what they’re hoping their children might get from the book. This is completely a wild idea but I would’ve loved to talk with the reading audience so that I can get a chance to hear their expectations. It might’ve encouraged me to strengthen certain principles. We have to remember, although writing is an art form, we’re still having to sell books that resonate with a large audience in order to validate for the business of publishing.

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

What motivates me most to buy a new books is that it has to have something that interests me i.e. a good journey, a spiritual journey. Or if I just heard the book was a really good read, a captivating story, I’d pick it up. I love to dive into a novel that simply holds my interest.

18- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I’ll measure the success of my book by the great things that the kids who’ve read it rave about it. Numbers of book sold can definitely mean sale success but how many kids will actually read it from cover to cover and be so excited they did. Of course every author wants it to sell in large numbers but I also want the other important reason for writing the book to be dominant as well.

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

I actually wasn’t planning on publishing the story because my original dream for Love Double Dutch was to be a feature film. However, when the opportunity knocked from Regina Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency, I jumped and was so excited that she thought the story was book worthy. I also realized many books are being made into films so the idea was win-win.

20- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

The best book marketing strategy I’m finding is first actually writing a book and being super excited about the story. Everything stems from that excitement. After that, social media has been simply awesome to translate that excitement into sales. Then when parents are happy their kids love the novel, they’ll post about it, which encourages other kids to read it. So I would say anyway you can, promote your book via social media with excitement and true testimonies and you’ll find success.

21- If you could inspire every child to pick up one value, what would it be?

If I could inspire a child to pick up one value from the Love Double Dutch it would be to stay positive especially when things don’t go your way, because there’s a better more fulfilling journey ahead. You just don’t know it yet but whether you’ll enjoy the outcome or not will depend on your perspective and what you’ll make of it. Simply put—Dreams come true when you go with the flow.

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

I wondered what people thought of Makayla’s character. Oftentimes, protagonists are meek, shy, introverts, insecure, nerdy, or misfit, but my protagonist, Makayla, aka Kayla isn’t. She starts off as over-confident, strong-willed and bossy which can honestly be a turn-off but it’s also the character trait of many young girls these days. My intention was to reveal the flaws of a girl like Kayla to reflect how the boisterous attitude of an alpha female type is toned down to a more likable character. Although, Kayla is a natural born leader, she’s suffering from a lack of attention from her parents and her leadership skills begin to lean toward selfishness and self-centered. So when her vulnerabilities and flaws are exposed it allows opportunities for her to implore and strengthen her more selfless and compassionate traits. I guess I just didn’t want to stick to the norm and portray the opposite of the spectrum that girls are used to reading. I thought it could provide helpful take-aways for girls who are either this personality type or who are friends with a girl like Kayla. I’d be interested to hear what the audience has to say about Makayla’s personality, attitude and adjustments she makes by the end of the story.

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

I’d like to share that I’ve been asked about the film rights by two different producers. I am super excited about that. Again— Dreams come true when you go with the flow. ☺

Writer/Producer/Director, Doreen Spicer is best known for Disney Channel’s critically acclaimed animated series, The Proud Family and for the Disney Channel, Spicer developed and wrote the musically driven film, Jump In! Spicer also created the international tween hit sitcom, The Wannabes Starring Savvy. Doreen Spicer continues to develop multi-cultural projects under the auspices of her own company, Spicerack Productions Inc.

Socials: Instagram @doreenspicer @lovedoubledutch


Love Double Dutch! by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Waiting to Query Your Dream Agent

You’ve just finished your manuscript and you’re ready to start querying! YAY! You have your query letter, synopsis, and comp titles all ready to go; you’ve got your list of agents to query; you threw up four times already. So, it’s time to fire off that query to your dream agent, right?

Well, hold up.

First of all, are you sure that your manuscript is 100% polished, professional, and perfect? What about your query letter and synopsis? Have you gone through a few rounds of revision and sent your manuscript to betas and CPs? If not, get on that right now.

Okay, so you did that. Now can you query your dream agent?

Well…you could, but why not wait a little longer?

Look, I know it sounds annoying and counter-intuitive. Agents can take up six to eight weeks to get back to you, and frequently their response time is even longer. So why wait to submit your work to the person you want to hear back from the most?

The simple answer is, if this is your first time querying, you probably aren’t as prepared as you think you are. I recently celebrated the first anniversary of when I started querying the manuscript I am still querying. In a caffeine-induced haze, I thought it would be fun to look back at the first query letter I ever sent and oh lordy. Not only was it over a page long and read like a synopsis, it also clocked my manuscript as coming in at 167,000 words. Yikes. At the time, though, I felt like my work was completely perfect and it’d be signed by the first agent who saw it. Obviously, it was not.

What I learned from this is to start with my middle-interest agents – people I thought might be a 50-75% fit for my work – just to get some practice. Why submit the version of my work that has the highest chance of rejection to the person I want to love it the most? Even after sending thirty queries, I’m still adjusting my entire query package. Not everyone does this, but as I’m querying a work that feels done, I’m still having other CPs and betas read it. My manuscripts are constantly evolving. So by the time I’ve queried maybe ten middle-interest agents, I am much more confident in my work and am ready to send it to Dream Agents.

My disclaimer, though, is that the writing, revising, and querying process is very different for everyone. Some people send five queries, get full requests on all of them, and find their agent within a couple of months. Some people query for years and never get anywhere. You don’t have to make your process the same as anyone else’s, or take anyone else’s advice. If this is your first time querying, it can be daunting. So maybe send some practice queries first. You never know what might happen.

Friday, October 19, 2018

#QueryFriday


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 10/21 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!

-Nathaniel

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dear O'Abby - Can I get an agent with a publishing deal already in hand?

Dear O'Abby,

I recently entered a pitch contest online and received a request from a small press.  I sent my materials in, and they have come back with an offer to publish my novel.  I know nothing about publishing and contracts and always assumed that I'd have an agent before I had a publishing deal.  Can I get an agent now, so they can help negotiate the contract with my new publisher?  I'm terrified to go into this without support from someone who knows about these things.

Kind regards,

Excited and Terrified.

Dear Excited and Terrified,

Firstly, congratulations on getting a contract.  That's fantastic!

Secondly, you can still try and get an agent at this point.  You will need to let the publisher know that you will need some time to go through the contract, and give them an idea what this timeframe will be.  If they are not prepared to wait a couple of weeks for you to do your due diligence, that's something I'd consider a red flag and I would be very cautious about signing up with them at all.

If you are querying agents with an offer in hand, it's worth mentioning that in the subject line of the email you are sending.  You will also need to let them know about the timeframe you have given the publisher so they understand the urgency of the situation.  Many won't have the capacity to drop everything to read your book ahead of others they have requested, so expect some rejections for this reason.

Other agents may not want to take on a project that is already promised to a publisher because they may not feel that publisher is the best place for the book.  Also, small presses tend not to pay advances or generate huge sales, so an agent may not feel like it's worth their while to go into partnership with you if they are only going to get 15% of what is likely to be a very small amount.  They may reject for this reason.  Alternatively,  they may suggest that you turn down this small press offer and work with them to get the novel ready to submit to larger publishers.

In this second scenario, you end up with an agent, but you're turning down a publishing deal.

You have to know what you really want in the long run.  Signing with an agent doesn't guarantee the book will sell to publishers.  You could spend months revising and polishing the book (again - I assume you had already done that before the pitch contest and the initial request), and still get no interest when the agent takes it out on submission.

You don't actually need an agent to negotiate your contract for you anyway.  Sure, it's nice to have someone there who does this regularly and knows all the red flags to look for, but if you want to sign with this publisher, and don't have an agent, you can get a lawyer to look over the contract for you.  They will be able to advise you whether it is a good contract or not, and point out any clauses they might consider problematic.  They may even offer suggestions on ways to edit those clauses to be more favorable.

Good luck!

X O'Abby