Saturday, April 28, 2018

Y is for Yellow: An Interview with OA Blogger Jaime Olin #AtoZChallenge

Operation Awesome's #AtoZChallenge theme for 2018 is... 
OA to Z! We'll be correlating our usual posts with the challenge letters, plus, each weekend, you'll get a chance to get to know one of our bloggers better.

Hi Readers! I'm your final OA blogger interview. I'm Jaime Olin, and I post the synopsis critiques, the Dear OAbby column, and various other posts.  

1- What's your passion in life? 

Would it be cliched to say reading and writing? Let me generalize a bit more and say 'words.' I don't think in numbers, pictures, or symbols. I have always thought in words. This means that, aside from being a bookworm and a writer, I'm also a crossword puzzle fiend and am my trivia team's go-to person for word games.

2- Would you share a picture with us of Yellow Flowers? 

Of course! I picked this one because yellow's always been my favorite color, and yellow flowers never fail to make me happy.

Image result for yellow picture

3- What are three of your short-term goals? 

(1) To finish writing this dual-perspective, time-hopping novel I started last month (I'd like to finish a draft by the end of the summer). It's a tough book, structurally, and finishing it will be a big accomplishment!

(2) To write synopses for the 4-5 ideas I've got rolling around my head so I can pick one of them and hit the ground running when I finish my current manuscript.

(3) To, once and for all, determine definitively when to use colons, semi-colons, and m-dashes!

4- What tip can you share to improve someone's writing craft? 

READ! Read in your genre, read outside your genre, read non-fiction, read magazine articles, read cereal boxes. As humans, we really do learn by osmosis sometimes, and the more we read good writing, the more we become better writers ourselves.

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

Now that we're four months into the year, how are you doing on your New Year's writing resolutions?

Jaime Olin writes YA contemporary novels, and shes represented by Jordan Hamessley of New Leaf Literary. She blogs weekly about writing and the publication process at the Operation Awesome website, and has acted as a mentor in the last two rounds of Author Mentor Match. Jaime grew up in South Florida, found her Xanadu in San Diego, then somehow ended up in Dallas instead, where she continually borrows from Texas geography and culture for her books’ settings and characters. Jaime is also a lawyer, an animal welfare advocate, a New York Times crossword puzzle aficionado, and a die-hard proponent of the Oxford comma. Beware: She’s never met a pun she didn’t like.

Twitter (@jkolin27)

Friday, April 27, 2018

X is for X Marks the Spot & Xylophone: #QueryFriday & #AtoZChallenge

Today's #queryfriday is pretty specific, because of the letter X! If your manuscript is about pirates or music, then leave a comment below in order to win a query critique (must also comment on one other blog post from this week). The winner will be picked via random number generator and you have until noon EST on 04/29 to enter, with the winner announced later that evening in the comments section.

Also, please note, that if you do not leave your email address in your comment, do not have it listed on your Blogger profile (or somewhere that I can find it easily on your own blog), I will then pick someone else as the winner. The rest of the rules can be found here.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

W is for Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How): A Query Shortcut #AtoZChallenge

Operation Awesome's #AtoZChallenge theme for 2018 is... 
OA to Z! We'll be correlating our usual posts with the challenge letters, plus, each weekend, you'll get a chance to get to know one of our bloggers better.

As I critique queries and synopses, I try to focus on the five Ws (along with the H). Answering the questions Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How will give you a jump-start on summarizing your novel for queries and synopses. For example:

WHO is your main character? Give the reader a quick description, including age (if relevant), situation (princess, student, etc.), and notable characteristics.

WHAT does your main character want? This is so important. 'Want' is the main source of conflict in your novel, and it needs to be clear to the reader right upfront.

WHAT happens if your main character doesn't get what they want? Also vital. These are the stakes. Does your main character lose a scholarship? Lose a war? Die? Spell it out!

WHEN does the action take place? This is really only important in a historical novel, or if you're working in sci-fi or fantasy and the action takes place in the future.

WHERE does the action take place? Give the reader a hint of your setting.

WHY does your main character care? Again, this goes to stakes. It also goes to your main conflict, and the person or entity that opposes your main character. Who's stopping your main character from getting what they want?

HOW does your main character proceed? In a query, you don't want to give away the ending (though you do in a synopsis), but you do need to explain what your main character has to do. Whether it's a decision or an action, make sure that's clear.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

V is for viewpoint on ASD #autism - Meet Rebecca L. Brown in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Flying at Night by Rebecca L. Brown

1- What's your speed-reading WPM?

I've never actually calculated it, but I read very fast. When I'm not writing I can easily read a novel a week, but I've been doing a lot of writing for the last few years.

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

loves hard and laughs hard

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I've always loved to read and since I was a child felt like I had my own stories to tell. My grandma (now passed away) held on to a page turner I wrote about a naughty leprechaun in second graded and said that was the moment she knew I would be a writer!

4- Would you share a picture with us of one of your DIY projects?

Meet Rebecca L. Brown in this Debut Author Spotlight

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

Short term writing goal: to finish the rough draft of book two by 4/15! thirty pages to go! Long term writing goal: to make a career out of writing!

6- What's one thing about the autism spectrum you want more people to know?

I want people to know that it truly is a spectrum. My own son would have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome not that long ago, but now his diagnosis is High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. No two people with ASD are the same. There is no "normal". My son is emotionally intelligent, but rigid in his thinking. He's articulate, but has had periods of fixation on certain subjects (when he was younger). Please know that if someone seems a little socially awkward, blunt, or uninterested in you, it may be a huge success that they are talking to you at all. My son sometimes comes off as if he doesn't care about the person he is talking to, but actually the nuances of conversation are difficult for him.

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

I have so many favorite books that it's so hard for me to pick one! I'll go with an unpopular choice: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. This book is hard, tough, gritty and disturbing with a capital D and I've read it three times. I started marking up my copy whenever I found a perfect sentence and stopped when every page was covered in yellow highlighter. The writing continues to blow me away. The characters range from sometimes awful to always awful (plus one innocent that you know isn't going to make it to the end of the book!). No matter how awful they are, they're crafted with such precision and perfection that I continue to read and read over again.

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

I have been so lucky to have so many friends and family that have fallen in love with my little book. I'll go back to the beginning. I started this book in a summer novel writing intensive with author Susanna Daniel and a group of other unpublished authors. There was a writer in the group and we instantly connected. Curt Hanke was the book's earliest and loudest cheerleader. When I started querying the book and got rejected he offered to start up a printing press to print himself because he believed in it so strongly. Every writer should have such love and support!

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 that the reader will feel a lot of things, including conflicted! I wanted to write characters that weren't perfect and sometimes did things you didn't agree with. I wanted to write characters that would make your feelings about them confusing. For instance, Isaac, nine year old Fred's father and Piper's husband is an absent father who is away doing great things for people who have been convicted of a crime they did not commit. Can he still be considered a great father if he is never around? Does his work on behalf of those less fortunate excuse him? Is Piper right to resent him? I love tricky questions!

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

There are a few things. First this is the 4th book I've written and the first to get published, though I had an agent for another. I believe that I've become a better writer with each one simply because I've got more words under my belt. The class I took with Susanna Daniel was a wonderful learning experience. I would recommend that if possible writers seek out writing programs or classes in their area. Lastly, I read a lot. In Stephen King's book "On Writing" he says that one of the most important jobs of a writer is to read and I take that very seriously. Every time I read a book I try to learn something from it, even if it's not my favorite. Some writers are amazing at describing a place or time period. Some writers strength is dialogue, some it's plot pacing or character details. There's always something to learn from other's writing.

11- Would you tell us something about the dog in FLYING AT NIGHT?

Chuck Yeager! What a dog! He doesn't die at the end. I am a huge lover of dogs. We have two rescue dogs and if I had my way we'd probably have ten. I'm one of those people who can't read a book where the dog dies, so I'll always write about dogs but they won't die. Chuck Yeager is a composite of several of the dogs we have owned. Dogs that were quirky to the point of being annoying, but you couldn't help but love anyway. We did have one dog who walked into a rental vacation home and promptly lifted his leg and peed on the couch!

Meet Rebecca L. Brown in this Debut Author Spotlight

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

I think I would have to say that the most memorable trait is Fred'stream of consciousness style of communication. He will go on and on about WW II or something but then right at the end circle back around to something relevant to his own experiences.

13- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

The diversity in Flying at Night comes from the subject matter of people with disabilities. I hope to put a human face on a condition that many people don't know much about. Some people have told me that they thought autism was "Rainman", they didn't know there was a whole very diverse spectrum. It was important to me also to include an adult character with ASD because I feel like so much of what we hear about ASD concerns children. I wanted to show what life might be like for one individual on the spectrum. My own experience with ASD and the experience portrayed in the book represent just one person's understanding and viewpoint, so I don't purport to speak for the ASD community in any way. I just want to bring understanding to ASD and show that children and adults on the spectrum feel, love, hurt and laugh too. They are people just like anyone else. When we had to explain my son's diagnosis to him we told him it meant that his brain worked differently and somethings would be harder for his brain, but some things might be easier too and every person on earth has the same experience: strengths and weaknesses.

#atozchallenge V

14- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Fred of course! On the surface, in the way he talks and some of his physical actions he may seem flat and lacking affect, but inside he is incredibly emotionally aware and deeply in tune with other people, though he may not have relationships with many people.

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

Hmmm. Interesting question. I think that it does in a small way. The three main characters are coming from very different life experiences and already have preconceived notions about each other in some cases. Are those preconceived notions wrong? Can someone change? How do you love and care for someone that had always treated you badly? I think the book asks a lot of important questions about topics that go beyond the scope of one family.

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

Mandatory time every day to create, no matter what you make! I think being a "maker" in some way is satisfying in a way that a lot of work isn't. Also mandatory time every day to read! There's so much to be learned from reading and everyone could benefit from that!

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

I'm a very visual person. I love art and color and am very attracted to beautiful things, especially artfully done beautiful things. I hate to contradict the old adage, but I am most likely to pick up a book because I am attracted to it visually. There are book covers that are pieces of art themselves and I'll be drawn to pick them up. I love interesting typography and I'm pretty certain I was a graphic artist in a past life. Then I read the inside jacket copy and if that looks interesting I read what other authors say about it on the back cover. I also rely on recommendations from people I know have the same loves and interests as I do.

18- How will you measure your publishing performance?

It's been a dream of mine to publish a book for so long. I've always wanted to put a book into the world that meant something to people and reached a good number of people. I'm a perfectionist who's very hard on myself so I'm trying to think about the success of this book as touching one person at a time. If someone feels moved by the book in some way I feel like it has succeeded. Reading reviews makes me obsess over why I can't please everyone, so my husband reads them for me! I would love to reach a lot of people with this book because I really believe in it, but at the same time I feel like just getting to the point of publication alone has been such a huge success for me! I don't want to forget that!

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

I was always determined to see my book on a book shelf in a book store. For some people that's not important and it may make for an easier and shorter process not to care about being on a shelf in a physical store. I grew up in book stores and libraries (my mom was a librarian for almost thirty years so I was always reading and perusing books.) The writers who had their names on the fronts of those books were celebrities to me, heroes and it was always my dream to be among them.

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

I have been so incredibly lucky to have a marketing team at Berkley that has worked overtime to get my little book on the radar. I'm not even sure how they work their magic but I've been so happy to have them on my team. I really do think that talking to as many people as possible about your book, in person, in media, on social media is the best way to spread the word. Opportunities like this to talk about my book are wonderful ways to get readers interested which leads to them reading it which hopefully leads to them recommending it to others which hopefully makes the cycle continue!

21- 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 can't think of a single one. I hope that everyone finds something to relate to and think about after they read this book and interview. My biggest hope for the comments section is kindness! Kindness to the author, the interviewer and most importantly to other commentators. In the last year I've tried really hard to not jump to conclusions about comments I don't like/agree with, even the particularly unkind ones. I'm trying to view them with kindness in my heart and understanding that you never know what someone may be going through at any time. Kindness always wins!

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

I can be found on twitter @rlbrownbooks, on the web at and on facebook as rlbrownbooks (rebecca brown)

Meet Rebecca L. Brown in this Debut Author Spotlight Meet Rebecca L. Brown in this Debut Author Spotlight

Flying at Night by Rebecca L. Brown


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

U is for Unexpected bonuses #AtoZChallenge

Operation Awesome's #AtoZChallenge theme for 2018 is... 
OA to Z! We'll be correlating our usual posts with the challenge letters.

I was able to anticipate some of the benefits of blogging with Operation Awesome before I started. Others were Unexpected. One of those unexpected benefits has been sharing my love of books with my oldest child. Because of Operation Awesome, I was sent an ARC of Adrienne Kress' book The Explorers: The Door in the Alley last year, which I read out loud to my son. The sequel, The Reckless Rescue, comes out today, and we were sent another ARC. 

This time, my son read most of the book to himself. He's really grown as a reader over the past year, and we were both thrilled that he could read this book by himself. He's eight, in third grade, if that gives you an idea of his reading level. Here's his review:

Did you like the second Explorers book?
Yes! It was a great book.

Who would you recommend it to?
I already recommended it to (his teacher)! He said he'll have to read it.

Do you want to read the next one?
There's another one? Can I read it now?

What was your favorite part?
Escaping the bad guys with The Lost Boys.

Was there a part you didn't like?
No, I loved all of it.

Was it too hard to read by yourself?
It was a little hard, but not too hard. I liked it.
About the Book
  *  The bad news: The boy (Sebastian) has been kidnapped by a trio of troublesome thugs.
  *  The good news: His new friend Evie has promised to rescue him!
  *  The bad news: Sebastian has been taken halfway around the world.
  *  The good news: Evie has famous explorer and former Filipendulous Five member Catherine Lind at her side!
  *  The bad news: There's still the whole matter of Evie's grandfather (and the leader of the Filipendulous Five) somewhere out there in grave danger.
  *  The good news: Pursuing Sebastian will lead Evie and Catherine to another member of the Filipendulous Five, who might be able to help!

This missive is a call to action and an invitation to join in mystery, bravery, and danger. There will be new people to meet, new places to see, and some dancing along the way. And one amazingly reckless rescue.

About the Author
Adrienne Kress is a writer and an actress born and raised in Toronto. She is the daughter of two high school English teachers, and credits them with inspiring her love of both writing and performing. She also has a cat named Atticus, who unfortunately despises teeny hats. She is the author of The Explorers: The Door in the AlleyThe Explorers: The Reckless Rescueand The Explorers: The Quest for the Kid. To find out more about Adrienne, visit and follow @AdrienneKress on Twitter and Instagram.

Monday, April 23, 2018

T is for Taking a Risk #AtoZChallenge

Just over a month ago, I did something that was high-risk and whose failure would have been disastrous.

With very little money in my pocket, I packed 9 day's worth of clothes and road-tripped from South Carolina to New York City.

I had a tenuously promising job opportunity lined up and a few couches to crash on. I knew I'd be gone for five days but that it could potentially turn into a much longer trip. And I was hoping and, let's be real, praying, that it would work out.

Because I'm a New York person. It is my city. It is my home. It is the place that meshes with my soul. And I craved being back in its movement, wildness, momentum.

So I took a risk. I leaped, knowing that if I fell there was a very thin, very hard net that would catch me. Some bones would break, for sure, cause the net was made of, like, thickly woven mesh or something else uncomfortable, but I would be alive.

And somehow, more than a moth later, I am still falling.

I took this chance because I felt the need to be in the city that matches the rhythms of my heart, and because I figured, hey, worst case scenario there's a great story in this, right?

It's been a rough month. There have been high-flying moments — when I found out I was going to be offered a training position and get paid for my work; when I was brought onto the overnight shift; when I found a place to stay for free for a little over two weeks; when I reconnected with old friends and laughed so hard I thought I wouldn't be able to breathe anymore; when I finally sat down and drafted my novel-in-progress for the first time in weeks and it felt so, so good.

There were low points, though. When I was off my medication and crying so hard I thought my body would break; when I was so broke I literally had no food and a negative account balance and I had to ask a friend for a long because I was so hungry I was crying for no reason; when the freaking MTA just up and took a nap in the middle of my trip because, well, that's what the MTA does.

But you know, that's kind life goes?

And I think that kind of story, the one with ups and downs such that if you graphed it, it would be roller-coaster-like, is the best kind.

In middle school they taught us about storytelling and it was this super clean graph, it ascended to a point and then came crashing down.

But real life isn't like that. Maybe it's because I write contemporary, but I really feel like stories should reflect that side of life. It's messy. It's tumultuous. There is no steady growth, no noticeable peak, no neat denouement.

I'm reading Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennet right now, and what I love about it (in addition to the swoon-worthy romance and clever banter which is basically my catnip), is that it's messy. The characters are messy. They're weird. They have quirks and ups and downs and their relationships start and stop and start again, take a wild turn here and are flipped upside down over there.

It's real, is what I'm saying.

To me, that's what literature should strive to do. Reflect reality. Honestly, whether you're writing contemporary or fantasy, romance or sci-fi, dystopian or historical, literature should reflect truth. Not the truth of what actually happened, perhaps, but the truth of who we are as humans.

This month's journey has been wild. It's been unexpected. It's been both far better and much worse than I every would have imagined.

It's been life-like.

Thank goodness.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

S is for Seniority: An Interview with OA Blogger Kara Reynolds #AtoZChallenge

Operation Awesome's #AtoZChallenge theme for 2018 is... 
OA to Z! We'll be correlating our usual posts with the challenge letters, plus, each weekend, you'll get a chance to get to know one of our bloggers better.

Hi! I'm Kara, and I've been writing for Operation Awesome for almost three years. Everyone else who was a member of the team when I joined has left, which makes me the Senior member of Operation Awesome! I love this blog, and all the friends I've made through being part of it.

What's your passion in life?
(Is it too obvious if I say writing? Okay, I'll pick something else.) (What about books? Still too obvious?)
Here's one that starts with S. I'm passionate about Stories, whether they be books, movies, or TV shows.

Would you share a picture with us of something Silly?

This is my daughter. She asks me to take a picture of her making this face several times a day!

What are three of your short-term goals?

Revise my Work in Progress and get it to my critique partners by the end of May.
Deep clean my daughter's room and get rid of all the baby items we don't need anymore.
Decide which classes I'm taking at the writing conference I'm attending in May.

What tip can you share to improve someone's writing craft?

Share your work with other people, and read theirs in return. I have learned so much from my critique partners, both from their notes on my work and my thoughts on theirs.

Kara Reynolds is a stay-at-home mom of three with a Master's degree in Genetic Counseling, who greatly prefers writing novels to academic papers. She writes contemporary YA novels with a speculative twist. Her work is represented by Silvia Arienti and Jill Corcoran of Jill Corcoran Literary Agency.

Friday, April 20, 2018

R is for Release: Drats, Foiled Again! Release Day & Giveaway! #AtoZChallenge

We're thrilled to have K.L. Lantz here today, a former OA teamie, as she celebrates the release of her book! 

Thank you to the amazing operatives of Operation Awesome for having me today. It's a very special day for me and for my kids, as well, who have been waiting patiently for me to turn the book on my phone into a real book they can hold and smell. The smelling is a big deal! I have five boys, all obsessed with comic books, ahem, I mean graphic novels. All of them have donned super hero capes at one time or another and like to spend their Saturdays playing LEGO Avengers on X-Box. As you can imagine, a story about twin brothers with super powers has been a real hit with them. My family loves the Gilbrinkle boys, and we hope you'll enjoy their story, too.

While the protagonist is male, I myself am a woman, and I couldn't resist putting some very strong female characters into Drats, Foiled Again! Some of them are really good and some are pretty evil. What I hope readers get out of this story is that no matter the circumstances of their birth, each and every person in the world must decide their own destiny, including where they want to sit on the vast spectrum between what is good and what is not. 

Since these ideals are kind of a hornet's nest of controversy, I felt it was important to include Family Discussion Questions in the back of the book. These questions are both leading and open-ended on purpose, to inspire vigorous disagreement or passionate advocacy for one's cherished opinion. The absolute best place to have these types of discussions is at home with your loved ones. In my home, we don't shy away from tricky subjects, even though my kids are still very young, the oldest being just eleven. Reading difficult but intriguing books like The Giver together has brought up some incredible family discussions that have taught us all to see the world a little differently than we used to. Drats, Foiled Again! is NOT The Giver. It's far too much silly fun to be confused with such a serious and insightful work! 

However, while comic-book-worthy middle grade novels aren't literary novels by any stretch of the imagination, I firmly believe as both a mom and an author that these fun, adventurous tales of diametric opposites and the grey areas in between fill an important need in the lives of children. Actually, they fill that important need in adults, too. Hence, the tremendous popularity of the Marvel and DC Universes on the silver screen. We need to talk about cosmic truth and good vs. evil. It elevates and deepens us. At the same time, the medium of fantasy or science fiction, in the form of gods or super heroes, entertains us, too. 

If Drats, Foiled Again! can accomplish these twin (excuse the pun) objectives of entertaining kids and families while deepening their introspection, it will have accomplished all I could ever hope for.

Until the release of evil twin Rupert's side of the story in Bombs Away! Buwahahaha!

K.L. Lantz was born in Mesa, Arizona. She's a desert girl who finally found home in Southern Utah after quite a bit of wandering about. She's a student at BYU with a passion for neuroscience and literature. She writes books, paints, dances classical ballet, and homeschools her five boys, all of whom love to play superheroes.


Robert Gilbrinkle is blind in one eye, which makes dodging punches in his Anti-Hero Maneuvers class especially difficult, but his lack of depth perception is the least of his troubles. Nox Academy’s senior project deadline is fast approaching, he's failing three classes, and, naturally, his evil twin Rupert keeps trying to kill him every chance he gets. 

But the real trouble begins when Robert’s pathetic superpower--a very unwicked superwink that fixes anything broken--starts to evolve. The kids at Nox used to laugh and call him "Rob Repairman" but nobody is laughing now. His wink threatens anyone who threatens him. 

Robert has always known where he stands - on the other side of the hall from Rupert. What haunts him the most is the revelation that maybe he and Rupert aren't as different as he thought. Battling a common enemy brings them closer than either twin can handle, but the lives of their friends are at stake and the thirst for revenge is strong. Maybe even stronger than their disdain for each other.


And don't forget to enter the giveaway! Up for grabs is a $25 Amazon Gift Card, and two copies of Drats, Foiled Again with keychains. Aren't they fun?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Q is for Questions about Main Plotline: Synopsis Critique #18: YA Fantasy #AtoZChallenge

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of GUNSLINGER WITCH, a YA Fantasy novel, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at (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!


Four young women of color in an alternate Post-Civil War world struggle against a common enemy to learn why they are taking magicians known as Songstresses, whose voices are their power. [1]

STAGECOACH MARY FIELDS: At seventeen, Mary [2] has experienced more than most adults. A hard-drinking, cigar-smoking frontier woman, she is comfortable in her own skin. Fast with a pistol and fierce with her power as an Earth Shaker, [3] Mary has earned the trust and admiration of Mother Amadeus Dunne. [4] It is because of this faith that Mother Amadeus calls on Mary to help locate a missing Blackfoot girl, Minaku.[5]

ISABELLA LEEFORD: Daughter of a wealthy merchant, Isabella is a Straw Master, someone who can manipulate individuals by ensnaring them in strings of light formed by her own power. [6]

EMMA PORTER: Sister of a famous songstress, a vicious assault breaks the dubious peace within her household. Her father's pride and her mother's machinations will be only the first step in tearing them apart. [7]

GINNY CHAMP: An orphan runaway, Ginny has no illusions about the evil in the world. Content with her life and strong in her talent as a Wood Worker, the wrong people notice her who want to covet her power. [8]

Mary’s investigation takes her to Edai. Once there, she learns of the Bone Workers. Practitioners of a vile magic, [9] the government exiled them seventy years ago. To return home, they are kidnapping Songstresses. [10] Isabella’s sister is among them. They continue the search together using Isabella’s connections. [11]

By chance, Mary meets Emma and learns that she befriended Ginny after the Bone Workers kill her father. Ginny seeks revenge and Emma fears for her friend’s life. Mary agrees to help Ginny. A faction of Bone Workers who refuse to use violence kidnaps Ginny to keep her from the other Workers. With this group and a new friend, Ginny is convinced that they are just and becomes a trusted part of their group. Ginny reunites with Emma only to find they must leave Emma’s home. Emma’s sister tasks Mary with protecting her.

Mary and Emma locate a lieutenant within the Bone Worker rank as he plans to silence all Songstresses with magic as a first strike. It succeeds, but Mary, Isabella, and Ginny join the fight after receiving intelligence from Ginny’s group that the Bone Workers plan to attack again. Their base of operations is a series of catacombs underneath an ancient graveyard. There they meet the true leader of the Bone Workers who implies that this strike only the first of many plans to topple the government. After they drive the Bone Workers away, Mary returns home with Minaku with the promise to come back to Edai and continue the fight. [12]


[1]: I would rephrase this sentence to make it a little clearer. How about: ‘In an alternate post-Civil War world, four young women of color struggle against a common enemy that is taking magicians, known as Songstresses, whose voices are their power.’
[2]: I would also rephrase the beginnings of each of these paragraphs so it’s less like a cast list and more like a narrative. For example, ‘At seventeen, STAGECOACH MARY FIELDS has experienced more than most adults.’
[3]: What is an earthshaker?
[4]: Who is Mother Amadeus? Why is she significant to the plot?
[5]: Is Minaku a Songstress?
[6]: Same comment here re rephrasing it so it reads like a narrative. Remember, you need to not only introduce the characters, you need to detail the major plot points. So far, you’re just giving us the former.
[7] Same comment as [6].
[8] Same comment as [6].
[9] What is this evil magic? Add some detail here.
[10] Why do they need the Songstresses? Add some detail here.
[11] Do the four girls already know each other, or do they meet during the investigation? It’s worth giving us this bit of back story so the rest of the plot has this foundation.
[12] This seems like an abrupt ending. How did Mary find Minaku? Is that the main goal of the plot, or is it stopping the Bone Workers?


This sounds like a neat idea with a really interesting setting, but this synopsis needs a lot more plot. As it reads, it’s unclear why the Bone Workers need/want the Songstresses, which of these characters are Songstresses (Minaku? Emma’s sister? Others?), what a Songstress actually is, and how Mary finds Minaku. Take a step back – identify your main plotline, with all the significant steps therein. Is the main plot Mary’s finding Minaku, or is it the four girls banding together to stop the Bone Workers? Either way, focus your synopsis on each step of this main plot. It sounds like you’ve got all this detail in the book; you just need to spend some time tracing the main plotline so you can clarify it for the reader in the synopsis.

Best of luck with this!

Operation Awesome's #AtoZChallenge theme for 2018 is... 

OA to Z! We'll be correlating our usual posts with the challenge letters, plus, each weekend, you'll get a chance to get to know one of our bloggers better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

P is for Craig Pomranz in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz

P is for Craig Pomranz in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge

1- Do you know how to knit and sew?

I studied at The Goodman Theatre, The Art Institute of Chicago. When I was on a work scholarship one of my jobs was to work in the costume shop. I learned to sew, but I would not say I mastered it! I did make a terrific pair of pants once. Now I am limited to sewing on buttons.

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

Compassion, Enthusiasm, Ethics, Generosity, Honesty

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I was galvanized by a true story that I wanted to share with kids, parents and teachers. My godson was nine when the incident happened -- his mother told me that he wanted to know why he didn't like sports and liked to knit. "Is there such a thing as a tomgirl?," he asked. I had never heard of the word tomgirl, but was struck by the many stereotypes and concepts it encompassed and immediately realized it was a story that needed to be told.

4- Would you share a picture with us of your book in an iconic location?

Made by Raffi at Grand Central Station ~P is for Craig Pomranz in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge
Made by Raffi at Grand Central Station:

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

Made by Raffi has reminded me of how much impact a children’s book can have. The book's reach (eight languages and 11 countries so far) shows how all cultures are the same when it comes to how we treat one another. I hope to provide an opening for conversations and to challenge ideas, as well as remind people to be kind and empathetic. I am working on future books that empower children.

6- I hear there's a song that goes with the book. What can you tell us about that?

Yes, it is very exciting! Composers Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s award-winning song “The Rose”) and Michele Brourman ("The Land Before Time" series) were inspired to write a song for me after reading Made by Raffi. My "real" job for most of my life is singing in nightclubs around the world. I am based in New York City, but travel from Los Angeles to Chicago to London performing. Once I recorded the song, "Different" I was completely thrilled to debut the song with my book at The International Edinburgh Book Festival. Here is a link: Different. Please feel free to share it!

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

I collect biographies and cookbooks, and of course the best cookbooks are a form of autobiography. I am inspired by true-life heroes, especially the lesser-known ones. M.F.K. Fisher has written remarkable food books that are like long poems. I love the emotional honesty and thoughtfulness in anything Ruth Reichl writes. I have been lucky enough to meet Nora Ephron and she is hilarious and someone I admire.

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

Other than my mother?  LOL.   I hear from readers of all ages all over the world.  I love the parents, aunts, uncles and teachers who are eager to share Raffi’s story.   I am particularly moved by hearing from children.  A mother in Sweden sent me a picture of her little boy knitting that still puts a lump in my throat, and this lovely drawing was made by a girl in Taiwan who designed a cape for Raffi to sew.  Below is a picture at the International Edinburgh Book Festival with twins wearing the original scarf made by Raffi and Isak from Sweden and the drawing from Taiwan.
 P is for Craig Pomranz in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallengeP is for Craig Pomranz in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallengeP is for Craig Pomranz in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge

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 the book evokes compassion and encourages empathy towards those who seem to be different than us. When I read the book to children, they tend to be quiet and reflective, perhaps because there is a lot at stake for the little hero who is trying to ignore bullies who don't understand him. My favorite scene is when his mother says to him “you are our wonderful boy with your own special interests. Dad and I are very proud of you.” If we all had the kind of support that permits us be true to ourselves, we would see real change.

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

My editor, Janetta Otter-Barry, found a way to simplify my story and yet keep the complex ideas intact. I learned so much from her.

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

Raffi is memorable because of his calm centeredness. Kid's books tend to be high-spirited, but Raffi's secret power is to quietly keep doing what he loves. He earns respect that way.

12- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

My protagonist is a little boy who is teased because he is perceived to be different. Maybe not physically, although his hair is longer than the other boys, but more because of his quietness. One of the characters is teased because he is overweight. Margaret Chamberlain's marvelous illustrations show students of all colors and sizes and with disabilities. Diversity is a reality, and I wanted to capture and celebrate it all.
P is for Craig Pomranz in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge

13- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Raffi is both naive and wise. He doesn't see himself as a victim, even as he is tormented. His parents help him understand that he doesn't need to change anything but just to be himself.

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

THAT is the core idea of my book. Society remains clogged by stereotypes and expectations forced upon us. Why aren't you married yet? When are you going to have children? Why do you live that way? Wear those clothes? Like that awful music? Follow those unusual religious beliefs? I hoped to spark conversations among parents, teachers and kids about how to cope with social control and the power and challenges of conformity.

15- Do you feel like you've stayed true to yourself throughout your life?

I have always been true to myself in my world, which hasn't always been easy. But the tougher challenge is to feel free and comfortable in one's own skin. I am wary of isolation, which would permit me to be whatever I want much more easily. We live in a world that fosters isolation -- we can live on social media and converse with only like-minded people -- but we have to find a way to exist in a heterogeneous world.

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

I am not sure if you mean a small change I personally could make -- that wouldn't be easy. One change is simple: encourage reading! It is wonderful that students are learning how to write computer code, but if they don't know how to write a sentence, communicate feelings and ideas, what is the point?

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

My apartment in New York is packed with hundreds of books -- I built new bookcases last year and they are already all full! I don't need much encouragement to buy a book. I used to wander through bookstores and wait for something to catch my eye: either the subject matter or an author I like. Now I read more reviews and take recommendations from my literary friends.

18- How will you measure your publishing performance?

This is my first experience with all of this. Made by Raffi has already surpassed my expectations, and yet I feel like there is a longer life for the title and other countries to tackle. Raffi is currently being looked at in India, Sri Lanka, Spain and Israel. On one hand, I hope people will buy it for generations to come, on the other I hope that one day we will not need a book that encourages children to be themselves. Below is a sampling of the International editions of Made by Raffi.

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

My publisher, The Quarto Group, is a large global company. Even so, I felt very well taken care of during the editing and illustration process -- the imprint, Frances Lincoln, is small and dedicated to diversity-focused children's books. During the marketing process, I found that no one is as passionate about a book as its author. I did not consider self-publishing because I was a new author with no backing or idea how to get started.

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

My publishers reached out to librarians; I reached out to parent and teacher bloggers, as well as child psychologists and those who do podcasts. One of the realities of publishing is that authors have to make themselves much more visible. We have to do our own homework to get interviews and articles published. This takes a lot of hours but is well worth it.

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

With the current political climate around the world attention must be paid to how we treat each other. There is greater visibility and acceptance of non-traditional gender behavior and yet there seems to be a growing need to conform to traditional roles. What new ideas are there that will help change attitudes towards gender stereotypes?

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

Craig Pomranz bio – Craig is an internationally known singer/song-stylist, actor... and now author!  Made By Raffi is his first children’s book.  Craig received New York’s MAC Award for Best Male Vocalist in 2012.  Originally from St. Louis, Craig got his professional start performing at age 12 at The MUNY, the largest professional outdoor theatre in the country.  He attended Carnegie-Mellon University and The Goodman Theatre - The Art Institute of Chicago.  Craig lives in New York City and travels the world performing in nightclubs and theatres.  His popular CDs “More Than A Seasonal Thing” and “My Heart Don’t Skip A Beat” can be heard on radio stations around the world and are available on iTunes, CDBaby and his website

Craig is working on several new books. He hopes his books will continue to enlighten and empower children.  He also continues to travel the world singing.  You can find his schedule on his website and see if he is in a town near you.
P is for Craig Pomranz in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge

Follow on Twitter - @CraigPsings and @MadeByRaffi
Like Made by Raffi on Facebook

Book Blurb: “Raffi feels different from the other children at school - he doesn’t like noisy games, and sometimes he gets teased.  But when Raffi discovers knitting and sewing, everything changes, and everyone wants something that is - Made by Raffi

P is for Craig Pomranz in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge

Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz