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.



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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?

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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 operationawesome6@gmail.com. (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!

Synopsis


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]

Notes

[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?

Summary

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? https://diversebooks.org #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 http://www.craigpomranz.com.

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
www.CraigPomranz.com
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


 #AtoZchallenge
a-to-zchallenge.com


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

O is for Original Member of Operation Awesome #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.

Operation Awesome has had many members come and go over the years, while keeping the heart of the blog the same. One of the Original blog members, Angela Townsend, reached out this month to give us an update on her writing life. We thought our readers would love to see what she's doing now!
**********


Books and Motion Pictures 
By Angela J. Townsend

Hello everyone! For those of you who do not know me, I am Angela Townsend. I am a founding member of Operation Awesome. In 2010 my writing career was just beginning and life was very different than it is today. I went from writing in my car while my kids were at school to having a full time office staff, and a full time writing career. I became published all over in world, a member of the Authors Guild of New York, and had a motion picture made from one of my novels, The Forlorned®. I went from living in amenity—to being represented by the former vice president of Paramount Pictures. I also went from being someone who avoided conflict at all cost to someone who fought in the highest court in the country—the U.S. Supreme Court--for my publishing rights.

The journey has been long, hard and stressful. I have taken a lot of knocks and I have certainly learned lessons along the way. As many of you know being an author in todays oversaturated market is challenging at best. I have always known that my best bet was to stay in the motion picture industry. I am by nature, a visual writer. I absolutely live in the world of my creating and it is a bright and vivid place for me. In the motion picture industry this is an absolute must in order to have a sellable screenplay. You have to be able to envision the landscape that is your story. You must know every single brick in your story’s foundation, every little detail about how the world works. You must know it like you know your own soul.

Walt Disney had a saying: the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. I believe 100 percent in those words. It takes blood, sweat and dedication to get things done. It takes more doing and less talking. Disney was a voice actor and a cartoonist, but he was also a shrewd businessman and cultural icon. He had a determination to succeed like no other. Often, when I would fall flat on my face, I would turn to those who also struggled. Everyone sees the theme park but no one sees the tears, stress and pools of blood behind it.

When my motion picture dreams became a reality, I had to learn to do a lot of things on my own. I designed and made my own press kits because I knew my film had to stand out in a crowded market. I had to be unique and it had to be within my budget. I spent hours developing these unique press kits. I needed something so large that the studio heads could not just set it aside and overlook it. I needed press kits that were unique in the industry and thankfully I achieved that by equipping them with every sensory detail I could—just like my novels. Sight, sound and smell were all included in my giant handmade press kits. See my Youtube video here: https://goo.gl/fqMqGv

Now back to Mr. Disney. My favorite ride at Disneyland has always been The Haunted Mansion. I love the spooky atmosphere, like the haunted paintings, ghosts and Doom Buggies. This creepy ride comes with the best vintage theatrical effects. Maybe that is why I write mostly in the thriller suspense and horror genres.

My motion picture, The Forlorned, was shot in a haunted, historical mansion in Somers, Montana. The filming took place in the dead of winter--in twenty below temperatures. Although this was very hard on the actors and crew, it created the perfect "chilling" atmosphere for the movie.

The Forlorned movie was released on October 3rd of last year. It's available in many venues, including: Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes and also in DVD format. To view the trailer please go here: https://goo.gl/2NE2rg

The movie is much different than my story as most movie adaptions are. It can be far too expensive for the the film makers otherwise. I was also able to obtain my publishing rights back to the novel. I re-wrote and had it published again under my own corporation. It is available in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon here: https://goo.gl/3i7JTB

Thank you everyone who has supported me since the beginning. I appreciate you more you know. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of help to you.

Angela.


Monday, April 16, 2018

N is for Never Giving Up #AtoZChallenge

I suddenly have the song "I Want it That Way" stuck in my head. It could be thanks to Brooklyn99. Or it could be because I typed the word "never" and my brain leapt at the chance to torture me for a few hours. Regardless, neither of those things have anything to do with this post, but I had to get them off my chest.

The truth is, I want to talk about giving up because I'm a quitter. I'm the first one to abandon a ship when it starts to sink. I've quit more things in my life than anyone my age should reasonably have begun. I quit music, sports, friendships, schools, cities, churches...you name it, I've quit it.

There's one thing I haven't quit, though: writing.

I was in second grade when I first told someone I was going to be an author when I grew up. That same year, I began writing my first "novel." It was atrocious and I don't think it was longer than five pages, but I never stopped.

At one point, I counted 17 novels-in-progress on my computer. This was in middle school.

By the end of high school, I had more than 300 poems in a folder. I didn't think this was a lot, until one of my peers told me how prolific she was at poetry: she had written 100 of them!

In college, I majored in creative writing and journalism. I wrote at least one article for the newspaper per week, in addition to stories and poems for class, in addition to a 250-page novel and a 100-page partial novel. Which frankly isn't that much.

In grad school, I wrote and edited novels and articles.

Since then, I have drafted and edited two full novels, published dozens of personal essays, and written maybe 100 or so blog posts.

I say all this for two reasons:

  1. To brag. And for you to tell me I'm great. I crave approval at all times, from all people, on all fronts.
  2. Because it's shocking. That I, who have quit so many things, have not quit writing? That blows my mind.
There's something about writing, the act itself of typing and the emotional relief of sharing, that has sunk its way into my soul and will not release me. 

For the months of October and November, 2016, I didn't write. I was off my medication and I sank into a depressive state so thick, so cloying, that I could not produce a single creative work. I was stagnant, and stifled.

The day I wrote for the first time, toward the end of November, I remember my heart beating faster, my palms clammy, and a smile on my face. It was the first smile that wasn't caused because of a funny joke on Brooklyn99 or a book I was reading or a friend cheering me up. It was real, genuine happiness exhibiting itself through my facial features.

I have always written. I hope I always will write. 

I think when I started writing this post, I was going to talk about how important it is, if you want a career as a writer, to never give up. Through rejections from agents, editors, readers, reviewers, if you want to make it, you have to keep on keepin' on. Just lower your head and charge forward like a freaking bull. 

And that's true. It's 100 percent true and valid. 

But I'm a little moody today. I'm in Manhattan, where there's a flash flood warning, and even though it's almost 10 a.m. we've barely achieved 7 a.m. light outside. I have a window cracked and the sounds of the city are filtering in, the men grumbling outside as they take away the trash, the cars swishing through puddles, the rain falling on the fire escape. I'm feeling introspective and thoughtful.

So if you take anything away from this post, let it be this: find what drives you, what moves you, what makes you smile when nothing is going your way. And cling to it. Never give it up.

If that thing is writing: awesome. 

If writing is your career and the thing that makes you grin like a toddler eating his first cookie is, like, bicycling or synchronized swimming or mushroom-collecting, hold onto that. Cherish it. Never give it up.

There's just so much stress in this life. So much that's hard. So many, many reasons to throw our hands in the air and say, "I can't. I can't do it anymore. I give up."

I was there last week. I was distraught, emotional, depressed. And through this blackest of moods, a tiny ray of sunlight filtered in, telling me: "If you give up on life, you don't get to write anymore."

My dreams are vast and ambitious, but the thing that drives me? It's love of writing. It's passion for the craft. It's desire to tell stories. 

What is the thing that drives you?

Never give it up.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

M is for : An Interview with OA Blogger Leandra Wallace #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.

What's your passion in life? 

The love of story, for sure! I enjoy it in books, in my own writing, in movies & TV, and in songs. I would love to one day be able to state my profession as 'author' (instead of a member service representative, heh). I also love being a mother! Even if I sometimes feel like all I do is pour chocolate milk, and hunt for lost toys...

What are three of your short-term goals?

Finish revising my current YA manuscript.
Begin querying this year.
Paint the rest of the house.


Friday, April 13, 2018

L is for Line: #QueryFriday & #AtoZChallenge


Friday is here again, and that means you have the opportunity to win a query critique! But we'll be shaking it up today: To correlate with L for the A to Z challenge, leave a LINE from the manuscript you are querying in your comment (don't forget to also comment on another post from this week, in order to be qualified to win). The winner will be picked via random number generator, and you have until noon EST on 04/15 to enter. Winner will be 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.

Looking forward to reading your lines! 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

K is for Key Characters: Synopsis Critique #17: YA Fantasy #AtoZChallenge

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of EVREN, 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 operationawesome6@gmail.com. (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!

Synopsis

Evren Greenwood - a sea-navigator with a love of sweets [1]- dreams of escaping the kingdom of Tarkais and the cursed inland pirates who have been hunting her for years. They tell her they want her eyes.[2] East Yuriel, an elf, has just been promoted to King’s Guard in the capital.

When the infamous pirate Captain Sa’av arrives at the shores of Ionoke [3] looking for a navigator to take him to the impossibly-hidden Sea Queen’s [4] lair, Evren jumps at this opportunity. But there is more to Captain Sa’av than meets the eye: he is the Keeper of the Sages [5] and he is looking for the Water Sage, the one prophesied to be a great healer.

Meanwhile, East is beginning to see the King lose his way, as Ranger of the West [6] comes to the capital with his radical ideas. The sun-fae [7] are being persecuted across the capital and East begins to investigate who is behind it.

Evren thinks Sa’av is unwise to go to the Sea Queen’s lair - and at first doesn’t want to take the job. [8] When the murderous pirates [9] find her at Ionoke and threaten her life the sun goddess, Amataru, steps in and saves Evren. She tells Evren to answer her call when the time comes. Evren realizes this job is her only chance to get enough money for the expensive flight across the seas and accepts the position.

East struggles in his new position. His King is excluding the sun-fae and tightening agreements between the elves of the Near Woods. [10]

Onboard, Evren meets an alcoholic, Red, who becomes her best friend. For the first time in her life, she feels like she belongs. Feelings begin to develop for her Captain [11] and Evren realizes it may not be as simple as receiving her payment and leaving. After fighting a sea serpent from killing Red, Evren meets an elf who tells her she is special and there is a reason Amataru saved her. Evren begins to get nervous, knowing that the forgotten magical memories from her past are beginning to surface. [12]

When Evren and crew arrive in Tarkais, the King asks for an audience with Sa’av and Evren. They find out that this trip has become more pertinent than ever: an epidemic is sweeping Tarkais and the only one who might be able to help is Rusalka. [13] Evren finds out Sa’av is sick and she cannot leave him now, even when Rusalka begins threatening Evren over the wind [14]. East becomes friends with a sun-fae, Tsura, who shares with him she is the Sun Sage.

They finally arrive at Rusalka’s Lair, after many trials. The Battalion is hijacked and Evren and Sa’av continue through the haunted fog. When they arrive at Rusalka’s Lair she laughs in their face, before telling them she will never give them the antidote. The last thing she tells Sa’av is that the Water Sage was murdered ten years ago. They leave, both feeling defeated.

Evren and Sa’av make it back to the capital and she is given her payment. Before she goes to catch the flight, she goes with Red and Sa’av to have a final lunch. The murderous pirates swoop down on them and kill Red. Evren freaks out [15] and the magic that has remained hidden within her for years, bursts forth, destroying the cursed pirates. She is then taken into custody as a prisoner of the castle, for hiding her magical abilities. She misses her flight. [16]

One of Sa’av’s friends breaks Evren out of her jail cell and Evren makes it to the Winter Solstice celebration. Rusalka arrives with her water folk. The celebration doesn’t last. The water folk drag the landwalkers [17] to their death, drawing everyone into a final battle. Rusalka threatens Evren and fights with her. Evren manages to stay alive but Rusalka doesn’t. Ranger - who has been polluting the King’s mind - stabs Rusalka and kills her. His goal is to purge the land of the sun-fae, water folk, and elves, leaving behind only Landwalkers of his choosing. The King dies from the epidemic. East, Evren, and Sa’av agree to work together and reunite the Lost Sages: those responsible for maintaining harmony and protecting Tarkais from people like Ranger.

Notes

[1]: Is the love of sweets relevant to the synopsis? If not, I’d rephrase this as ‘Sea-Navigator Evren Greenwood…’
[2]: Why do the pirates (assuming it’s the pirates you mean here) want her eyes? This doesn’t seem to recur later, so if it’s not an important point in the main plot, I’d cut this sentence.
[3]: What is Ionoke? So far, we’ve heard of Tarkais, which is where Evren and East live. Describe what this new location is.
[4] Who is the Sea Queen? Why does the pirate care about this?
[5] What are the Sages? Is the Sea Queen also the Water Sage? Why does the pirate care about getting the great healer?
[6] Who is Ranger of the West? You’ve got character soup already, and we’re only in the second paragraph. A short synopsis really needs to focus on the 4-5 characters who are most important to the main plot. Any other characters should be described by their relationship to the named characters (Evren’s brother, the King’s nemesis, etc.)
[7]: Who are the sun-fae? Is East a sun-fae? If not, why is he investigating this?
[8]: Earlier, you said Evren jumped at the chance. Make sure this is consistent.
[9]: I thought she was working with the pirates? Add a little detail to explain what’s happening here. Are there bad pirates and good pirates?
[10]: I don’t know what this means or why it’s important. In fantasy, when you’re creating a world unlike our own, assume the reader won’t understand who elves of the Near Woods are, or why it’s important to tighten their agreements.
[11]: Is Red her captain, or is Evren developing feelings for both of them?
[12]: This is the first we’re hearing about these magical memories. If it’s significant, seed it in earlier, probably in your initial description of Evren.
[13]: Who is Rusalka? You need to cut about half of these names, and make sure the names you keep have sufficient description to orient the reader.
[14]: What does it mean that she’s threatening her over the wind?
[15]: The term ‘freak out’ doesn’t seem to fit with the tone of the rest of this synopsis.
[16] Is it a literal flight, like on an airplane? Describe.
[17] Who are the landwalkers?

Summary

You’ve got what sounds like a fun swashbuckling adventure with high stakes, but the synopsis doesn’t quite work as written. First, there are way too many named characters, and that makes it very difficult for the reader to get situated in the story. Cut it down to the 4-5 most significant (key) characters to the main plot. Second, I tried to note everywhere I didn’t have enough detail to understand what was going on. Add some story here so the reader can understand the main throughline of the plot. Third, is this a dual narrative with Evren and East having viewpoint chapters? The beginning of the synopsis indicates this, but by the end, East’s plot is dropped. Make sure you account for what’s going on in East’s story, assuming he’s a viewpoint character. Even if he’s not, if he’s important to the story, we need to know what’s going on with him throughout the book.

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 11, 2018

J is for the character Jillian Styles by Blaise Ramsay in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Blessing of Luna (Wolfgods Book 1) by Blaise Ramsay


J is for character Jillian Styles in Blessing of Luna


1- What got you to start the writing journey?

I’d been working in the conceptual and character design industry and freelancing for fifteen years. Eventually I worked in the Indie gaming industry doing what I thought I loved at the time. The problem was, I started noticing that artwork just wasn’t filling a hole somewhere inside. Everything I designed seemed to be hollow in one way or another. I didn’t understand what it was so I opened up Word on my Mac and started writing short stories. The first one I published on the art site, DeviantARt was given Daily Deviation status. Simply meaning it was given an award. I decided to start writing short stories until I found the work of A.E. Fisher. I fell in love with her biker romance novels and decided to write my own. The first book I wrote had to be set aside. I nearly called it quits. Then I learned of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and decided to participate in it. This event gave birth to Blessing of Luna, my debut title which spawned three other books in the series. It was this book that gave me the passion for writing and got me involved in the book blogger and indie communities. I am glad I decided to start.
J is for the character Jillian Styles by Blaise Ramsay in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge


2- Reviews or Views: Some people shy away from writing book reviews because they feel others won't share their taste in books. What do you tell them?
Thank a writer by writing a review
I would tell them what I told myself when working on Luna. Fear is a liar. It will stop your passion in its tracks if you let it. I would let them know we all have different tastes and more often than not, the author wants to hear what they have to say even if they don’t want to make it public. They can always email the author and let them know. Not all of us want to publicly say anything. People are going to feel differently. Just as we all don’t share the same tastes in movies or food, so it’s the same with books. If someone says something on an author’s Amazon or Goodreads or where ever the book is posted for review, let the author deal with it. We usually are more kind than most people tend to think. I know, me personally, I like to learn what people did or didn’t like in a book. It lets me know the “air of the market” as it were.


3- How's NaNo camp going?

It is going swell! I’m thoroughly enjoying the story, Eve of Ragnarok because it’s something closer to what I want to write. It’s still a romance but it doesn’t focus primarily on the romantic aspect. The story follows a subject I’ve long held close. Norse Mythology. I like how Camp isn’t as demanding. You can work on what you want to, edit, write short stories, etc. Not the same as regular NaNo where 50K words is your goal and it has to be a novel. I must say i will definitely be returning to both this year and the next.
nanwrimo 2017 winner


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

  1. Loyalty
  2. Friendly
  3. Loving
  4. Caring
  5. Nurturing

*I’m a mom and a wife. Pretty sure that’s why they are what they are. XD

5- What ignited your passion for writing?

The first nail in the horseshoe was winning the Daily Deviation status. I’d never won it in all of my years of drawing. Second I think it was definitely A.E. Fisher. Reading her books sent me into researching self-publishing where I found Kristen Martin. This lovely lady has had such an impact on me. I can honestly call her my hero. Through her I met Kim Chance and starting reading her blog and watching her youtube videos. The more I learned the more I knew. I’d found my passion. I’d found a supportive and caring community who isn’t competitive like it was in art. No one latched onto their favorites and attacked others. The community has been nothing but supportive. As we call ourselves: “We aren’t a competition. We’re a network.”

J is for the character Jillian Styles by Blaise Ramsay in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge J is for the character Jillian Styles by Blaise Ramsay in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge J is for the character Jillian Styles by Blaise Ramsay in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge


6- Would you share a picture with us of you, your book, and your husband?

J is for the character Jillian Styles by Blaise Ramsay in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge


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

For now, I’m still working on building an author platform, raising awareness to FyreSyde and helping new and upcoming authors in any way I can. In the near future, I will be releasing three other books in the upcoming year. For long term, I want to continue to build FyreSyde as a publishing company and offer the blog as a chance for networking. I also have plans to start a podcast where I will offer tips based on my own journey and what I’ve learned. Short term, it’s to finish Camp NaNo and release another book at the end of this year.

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

Umm, I really have to say that would be the mom of my daughter’s best friend. She about bounced out of her car and wanted to find out how she could get involved with FyreSyde and wanted my book now. Otherwise, I don’t know. XD From what my betas have told me, they have a great affinity for Alexander Kain. The mentor of the main protagonist of Blessing of Luna. Far as I can tell, he has some real fans and anticipators who want his book released.

9- What's your favorite flavor and way to have your coffee?

coffee. J is for the character Jillian Styles by Blaise Ramsay in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge
Oo, reaching for achilles heel huh? ;D Well I have a saying, I tend to like candy rather than coffee. During the year I usually prefer the more nutty flavors like Hazelnut, Toffee Nut, etc. If I’m feeling more laid back, I’ll settle for the old cream and sugar. This is especially good at good old mom and pop shops. Sometimes I visit my bank instead of using the atm just to nab their coffee. Otherwise, it’s mostly homebrewed Maxwell House with Hazelnut creamer. That is until Pumpkin spice season, then it’s binging Pumpkin spice iced coffee with tons of cream.

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 want to immerse the reader into the scene. Almost like they were there. I want to invoke emotions based upon what the characters are feeling. In Blessing of Luna, I did what I could to make the world feel as real as possible. It’s something I try to do with all of my writing. If the character is in pain, I want the reader to feel that. If they are happy, I want to the reader to feel happy. I want them to wonder, anticipate, ask questions and in some cruel instances, leave cliff-hangars. One scene in Luna that truly touched me was when Damien loses his childhood friend. It’s a dark scene with great emotion that leads him into a deep sense of doubt that Kain has to get him out of. Then there’s the death of the main villain. Damien doesn’t react with a sense of victory, rather a sense of sadness and defeat.

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

Wolf & Hunter by A.E. Fisher and Keeper by Kim Chance are my absolute favorite reads right now. I’ve been through Hunter and Wolf at least five times a piece and Keeper once (with plans to binge it again as soon as I can). These are all stunning books I would recommend to anyone.


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

Reading and writing. Those are my two main weapons of choice. Even if it’s not a laptop or computer, I carry a journal or a book with me everywhere I go. I was once told that I needed to avoid reading to avoid taking and let me tell you, from what I’ve learned that’s so far from the truth. Pablo Picasso once stated “Steal like an artist”. What does this mean? It means everyone who has a craft, has a mentor. Even if they don’t know the person, personally. The more I read, the more I learn and evolve my own writing. Stephen King has been known to state, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that”. We learn from each other. It’s what makes us better.

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

To begin, what separates Blessing of Luna from another “werewolf” novel, in my opinion is the simple fact I separated the term “werewolf” from the actual “lycanthrope”. Extensive research was done to find a differentiation between the two. A werewolf is actually much different from a lycanthrope. For the character Jillian Styles in Blessing of Luna, it is the fact she is an immortal lycanthrope. She can’t die no matter how much silver is pumped into her veins. She also has silver nails which severely hurts the vampires of the novel’s world. For Damien, it is the fact that he is what is known as a Purifier. A paladin sent to keep the peace as it were. For Kain, it’s the mysterious gashes and slashes all over his body. The reason for these is not known in Blessing of Luna but does become more understood in Bane of Tenebris.

14- How did you come up with the name FyreSyde?

J is for the character Jillian Styles by Blaise Ramsay in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge FyreSyde
There are a couple of things that served as inspiration for the name FyreSyde. First, it was Christmas time and my kids were watching Charlie Brown and the song playing had the lyrics “Yuletide by the fireside”. This got me thinking, “What do I enjoy? I enjoy being wrapped in a blanket on a cold winter night with a coffee and a good book.” From this, the name FireSide came to mind but then i got thinking again. “How can I make this more, Blaise? Oh, I know, I’ll replace the ‘i’ with ‘y’. Then, FyreSyde Publishing was born.

15- The diverse book movement recognizes all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? https://diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Well, with this one I’m going to be honest. I won’t ever make literature a reason to become political, period. In Blessing of Luna, Damien has PTSD and Detachment Disorder from a sexually abusive mother. It’s something I wanted to raise awareness to because both are close to me. They’re serious afflictions and too often, I think they get swept under the rug or written off.
“We’ve switched from a culture that was interested in manufacturing, economics, politics – trying to play a serious part in the world – to a culture that’s really entertainment-based”. -Stephen King


16- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

I think this would be Damien. At times he can appear really shy, timid and maybe weak compared to Jillian but therein lies the great internal conflict. He is suffering from Detachment Disorder. He feels numb to everyone around him until Jillian really chisels into the rock. Then he opens up and becomes a much stronger character. Throughout the series, the reader will find that Damien becomes the epicenter of the neighboring packs. He and Kain become the leaders everyone looks to. Even the last prince of the royal line has to seek their guidance. It’s a wonderful little trick screenwriters and author’s love to call “Shift”.

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

Nope. I write fiction to escape reality. XD

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

In a way I think I already am. I get contacted via email, social media and at the live events from authors who want to know how they can move from being hobbyists to professionals. Leaving the laptop and going out, meeting people and connecting is a small change that can have a big impact.

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

The cover plays a key role in my first choice of books. Then as any prospect would, I flip the sucker over (if it’s a physical copy of course) and read the synopsis. If it’s an eBook and the cover and synopsis appeal to me, I’ll often get a free sample and read the chapters offered. If I find it interesting, I’ll go ahead and buy it. No matter what though, I’ll always leave a review to the author. It’s the least I can do.

20- How will you measure your publishing performance?

J is for the character Jillian Styles by Blaise Ramsay in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge manage measure
I don’t. I’m not an author who runs off and checks sales and reviews everyday. Nowadays, it’s great to have a best-seller! However, authors who attend live events who don’t get the same number of reviews or feedback because sometimes life just gets busy and folks forget but still get sales who bond with their readers are still best sellers. I will always tell anyone and this is from personal experience - Numbers do NOT matter. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have on Instagram, Twitter, etc. What matters is who sees your work and when they see it. It is why I am an advocate for offline marketing. With the black hole that is social media, it is easy to get lost and let’s face it. No one goes to your store while browsing through twitter. Most of the time they’re not in a position to. If I have one fan who comes back time and again, I’ve succeeded. That being said, authors love book sales, who doesn’t? But how much work you put into marketing your book with often reflect itself.

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

I decided to self-publish because I had a really bad experience with traditional publishing. I also like to keep control of the process and the revenue. It gives me the feel of putting in more input than a traditional publisher. True it is a ton of work but in the end I think I’ve benefited more. As a mom of two young children, I feel it gives them an example to see me doing my own work. It proves that hard work is what makes success. If this experience has done anything, I would want it to show a good model of “leading forward”.

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

Live events. I have seen more growth in my email list, getting interviews, exposure, etc just from the few events I’ve experienced this year. I’ve networked with some amazing people and learned more from other authors than I feel I could online. It’s what pushed me into a movement of “Budgeting Social Media; Invest in Live Events”. Our readers are not behind a laptop, they’re out there working at Cracker Barrel, attending All-con, going to Book Festivals and asking questions at libraries. Don’t get me wrong. Social media is amazing for keeping in contact but it should never be used as a primary marketing tool. Reaching out and touching, even in email is worth more than just posting Amazon links on Facebook.

23- 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 don’t really have any one question in particular. They’re welcome to ask or comment on what they want. I love to get quizzed. Heck I’m a pretty open book and look forward to any question. Ask me please!

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

I would like to express my thanks to you for interviewing me and asking the questions you did. They were all important in my own personal growth as an author.

Bio:

J is for the character Jillian Styles by Blaise Ramsay in this Debut Author Spotlight #AtoZchallenge
FyreSyde Publishing owner and founder Blaise Ramsay worked over fifteen years in the graphic design industry, with some experience in indie gaming. Recently she shifted her attention to the world of literature with her debut paranormal romance series, Wolf gods.The debut title, Blessing of Luna is set to release in 2018. She currently lives in North Texas with her two children, her husband and pets. A UTD graduate with a Bachelor's in History with an intention on teaching, Blaise decided that the world of teaching just wasn't for her. A stay at home mother of two, business owner and self-publisher, Blaise loves to meet new people and encourage others to follow their dreams through weekly posts to her instagram, twitter, facebook and blog. Feel free to contact Blaise for an author interview, guest blog opportunities and book reviews. Visit our affiliates' page for a chance to see how you can get a hold on some of the books we have reviewed.

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Blessing of Luna (Wolfgods Book 1) by Blaise Ramsay

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