Friday, October 19, 2018


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

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

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

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

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, October 18, 2018

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

Dear O'Abby,

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

Kind regards,

Excited and Terrified.

Dear Excited and Terrified,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

X O'Abby

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

#WEP Debut Author Déjà vu

WEP CHALLENGE FOR OCTOBER 2018 DEJA VU OR VOODOO #WEPFF Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

This WEP challenge seemed like a great reason for a
Debut Author Déjà vu post.

Here are a few blasts from our past.

Kristin Bartley Lenz

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

If writing a novel feels overwhelming, tell yourself to write a short story. Maybe you’ll actually end up with a short story, but good chance it’ll grow into more. #WriteTip

When trying to Show Not Tell, have your character look around her – what does she notice? What does she see, hear, smell, touch? #WriteTip

2- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

Forever Young Adult ( ) is one of my favorite book bloggers because they have an interesting format (, and I almost always agree with their reviews. They even have a special series of reviews on Kirkus.

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

Show up to support others – in whatever form that takes: sharing good news, going to events, reviewing/recommending other books, encouraging and sharing resources with writers at all stages.

4- What is one question you would like the readers of this to answer in the comments?

What books are on your night-stand at the moment?

5- Have you, or one of your characters, ever experienced déjà vu?

I ‘ve experienced déjà vu several times, but of course I can’t think of the specific situations right now! But just as fascinating to me is the idea of premonitions, ie. sometimes I will get a feeling or a thought about something before it happens.

A couple years ago, I entered a writing contest and the winner was being announced at a large conference. I was in the audience, did not think I had a chance of winning, was totally calm and relaxed and curious as the contest coordinator was speaking on stage, when all of the sudden my heart started racing wildly – and then they called my name as the winner!

Another time, I was driving on my way to speak at a book club out of town and one of my old high school teachers popped into my head. We’d had an altercation my senior year, but I hadn’t seen or hardly thought of her in 30 years. When I arrived at the book club, she was there! She was new to the group, her first time attending, an aspiring author, and she didn’t even remember me. It was so weird.

And then there are a lot of stories of people having a “bad feeling” about something. I really believe in this intuitive energy. Thanks for asking this question – it sent me off to read more about it. Here’s a Psychology Today article about déjà vu that was interesting:

Thanks for having me back on your blog, Operation Awesome team!

Angela Kay

Angela Kay #WEP Debut Author Déjà vu

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

Whenever you have a dream, never give up because you’ll never know where it’ll take you. I never imagined in my wildest dreams I’d be publishing my books, let along publishing for others.

2- You've put out two books since your last interview. Is there another in the works?

I’ve finished the first draft of a cold case thriller, I’m in the middle of a psychological thriller with human trafficking being the center subject, and I just started the second book in my FBI thrillers (“I Can Kill” being the first, which was named awards finalist by American Book Fest.)

3- What is one question you would like the readers of this to answer in the comments?

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

4- Have you, or one of your characters, ever experienced déjà vu?

I’ve experienced Deja vu quite often.

Cath Schaff-Stump

Cath Schaff-Stump #WEP Debut Author Déjà vu

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

Writing words is more important than anything else you need to do as an author.

2- Given your Tweet thread, what's your opinion on the Nike Kaepernick ad?

I applaud Nike for the Kaepernick ad. A real hero is one who stands up for their principles. It is sad that this is such a controversial stance. A United States so flagrantly in disregard for the human rights of all peoples, regardless of their origins, should not censure protest against its government. As a white person, I know we are a privileged group who take a lot for granted. Okay, everything. One of the best ways we can ally and make change is to support such efforts, and try to speak about them with other, especially to those who don't see the privilege. So, go Nike. You're doing your job. And go, Mr. Kaepernick. Way to get out there and hope for a time when we are all on the same enlightened page you are on.

3- What is one question you would like the readers of this to answer in the comments?

Can you tell me all about your favorite character from a book or movie? I'd love to hear about them.

4- Have you, or one of your characters, ever experienced déjà vu?

I experience deja vu all the time. I used to think I'd dream things in advance, and then experience them. So, it's a real thing, even though I don't think it has a prophetic cause.

Jason Disley

1- How do you like your coffee? Have you ever had a Pumpkin Spice Latte, and did you like it?

I like a flat white these days. Haven't had a Pumpkin Spice Latte, might wait for Halloween before I do.

2- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

The New Yorker I like the broad spectrum of books covered by this site

3- What have you been up to since your interview?

Where do I start?

Well after my novel Seven Day Fool, I have been writing its sequel Take It Or Leave It. Which sees my private detective Jake Brody drawn into a case spread through Manchester, London and Paris. It sees some character development and his immersion into a much more espionage filled tale as he becomes a person of interest to MI5 - the British Secret Service. The tale is set a mere few months after Seven Day Fool and is set in 1966. England is getting ready to host The World Cup. The Jules Rimet trophy has been stolen, and a mysterious "Pole" is implicated as being involved in what looks like an opportunistic theft. Jake Brody believes that this individual has something to do with Kinga's father who was deported back to Poland at the end of Seven Day Fool. He is offered the task to investigate by the one man in England that he dare not refuse. It is a job offer. Does he "Take It Or Leave It?" I should hopefully have this book finished by the end of 2018.

I still write a lot of poetry and have been performing at spoken word events. I have recorded an album of spoken word called Speakeasy, which is going to be released by Heavy Soul Records. There will be a seven inch vinyl record of two of my poems released in December. One is called Words of Wisdom, and is performed by myself with original music by Rick Blackman. The other side is called Breathless and is recorded in French by Gabriela Giacoman, the lead singer of French Boutik. The music again is original music by Rick Blackman. After this release the album will be released also on vinyl.

I now co-host a regular spoken word /Comedy night called Speaky Blinders which has a great variety of performers sharing their poetry and comedy.

I also published a book of poetry called Songs of Benevolence & Rage this year, and hopefully in December will have an experimental collection titled Beat To A Pulp published. This collection is a complete traditional Pulp style story written in verse form. I have some amazing artwork that will be complementing the collection provided by an artist friend. Who is known as Mr H. It is going to be very different, and is a work I am very proud of. So, as you can see I am busier than ever!

4- What is one question you would like the readers of this to answer in the comments?

What's next?

5- Have you, or one of your characters, ever experienced déjà vu?

Many times personally. Jake Brody certainly has a moment in Take It Or Leave It. It's centered around the female interest and the sense of déjà vu is palpable for him as he is still getting over what happened to Martina Godlewski.

Matt Harry

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

The theme of your story (what it’s really “about”) is crucial. Once you know the theme, it will tell you which characters to keep, what scenes are necessary, and what the ending should be. Stories without a theme may be enjoyable, but they are disposable.
Teaser pic of the next book in the series, which is out May 14, 2019!

2- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I really enjoy the reviews at @TheAVClub. They’re intelligent, insightful, and often very funny. I base my to-read list on their “Best Of” picks every year.

3- How would Euphemia Whitmore feel about voodoo magic?

I’ll let her answer this one. The following is a quote from her unpublished volume Alternate Methods of Sorcery for Beginners:
"Voodoo magic, while certainly effective, lacks the elan and work ethic required for traditional sorcery. As such it is quite a tempting field for the young sorcerer to pursue. However, a grounding in traditional spell casting fundamentals is recommended before learning easier, alternate methods."

4- What is one question you would like the readers of this to answer in the comments?

Is there anything you’d love to see explored in a novel about teenage sorcerers? The second book in this series, Cryptozoology for Beginners, has been completed, but I’m in the planning stages for the third novel and would love to hear any wish lists!

5- Have you, or one of your characters, ever experienced déjà vu?

I feel like I experience it quite a bit. I’ve even had dreams that I later think actually happened. Naturally this makes me want to write a story about it, but I haven’t figured out a unique way to do it yet.

The answers ended up at 1400 words. Who knew these blasts from the past would have so much to say?!
We're not competing to win. There's no need for feedback. But it'd be great to keep the conversation going!
So if you feel like responding to some of the questions asked by our authors, that'd be awesome!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Importance of Having Writing Habits

As we’re coming up on National Novel Writing Month (also known as “NaNoWriMo,” or as I call it, “the most stressful month of the year”), creating habits will be vital to success. A published writer once told me about writing, “If it’s important to you, you’ll find time for it.” There’s plenty of truth in that – without finding the time, the writing isn’t going to happen at all. The words are just going to ferment in my brain until it explodes and I give up on ever starting.

Even when I find time to write, though, I usually find myself getting distracted by…everything. Oh hey I should check my email. And my other email. And Slack. And Twitter. Ooh there’s a pigeon on the roof across the street! I should send a photo to my friend. Haha that’s a funny cat meme she sent back. Wait, how did an entire hour go by and this darn Word document is still blank? It’s a disaster.

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, and to help myself with writing in general, I’ve spent some time developing habits over the past couple of weeks. I picked a writing spot in my house where I can be alone (the bedroom) and I turfed out every distraction I could identify. Can’t stop the pigeons from landing on the roof across the street, but oh well.

So, every day before I sit down to write, I start by making the bed. I can’t focus when there’s a job to be done that would make the room neater – I’m the kind of person who, if I have to stay home sick from school, I end up cleaning the house. But also, doing so is a mindless activity – it helps prepare my brain for writing by emptying it out. And now that I’ve been doing this for a few weeks, every time I strip the pillows off the bed, it gets the writing juices flowing. By the time it’s all tidy, I usually have a few good ideas bubbling up.

The second thing that has helped a lot is using an app that prevents me from going to time-wasting sites on my computer and phone. I use Forest, which allows me to set an amount of time I want to work and then plants a little tree that will die if I leave the app. Guilt is a great motivator for me, so this works very well. Don’t die, tiny shrub ☹

The last thing I’ve been doing is working by time rather than word count. I like to use the twenty-five on, five off method, so I get a break twice an hour. When I paced myself by word count, I had a lot of problems: I’d write bad scenes just to reach my word count, I got frustrated when I didn’t reach my count, I’d sometimes have to delete words and then I’d get set back. For me, setting timers works much better. Even if I barely write anything, I usually find that I’m prouder of one hundred words that I carefully crafted than I am of five hundred mediocre words.

There are still a couple weeks until November 1, so now is the time to start getting your own habits ready! Do you have anything that works well for you? Have any other suggestions? Leave a comment!

Friday, October 12, 2018


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

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 10/14 at 12 pm*.

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

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

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Dear O'Abby - Do I need to hire a service to format my Kindle book?

Dear O'Abby,

I have recently decided to self-publish my book.  Never having formatted an e-book, I decided to ask some writers in a forum I frequent about it, and several of them recommended I use a service to do it, rather than doing it myself - something about the book losing formatting like bold and italics if I don't know how to write HTML?

Is this true?  Some of these services seem to charge a lot of money for something that looks pretty simple if I am to believe the instructions for creating a Kindle book on Amazon.



Dear Baffled,

It never ceases to amaze me how much misinformation there is out there in cyberspace, and how many people are willing to perpetuate that misinformation.  It also pains me to see how many people are making a buck preying on misinformed authors.

You don't need to know HTML to format an ebook.  You can do it in Word with some effort, and there are numerous other programs that can help too.  Some of them cost a few dollars, others are free.  If you are trying to do it in Word, I suggest you copy and paste the entire document into a text editor first, to strip out any formatting that is already in there, and then start from scratch in Word.    

Just be aware that there is more than one ebook format and the book you formatted perfectly for Kindle (.mobi file), will not work with other ebook retailers that require .epub files or PDF files.  So you will need to format your book differently for different platforms if you want to sell your book in a variety of places.

It will take time, but so did writing your book.  And it's worth taking that time to ensure you get a professional-looking ebook.  There are few things that drag a reader out of a book faster than inconsistent or kooky-looking formatting.  I've read ebooks where the fonts are different sizes or styles.  I've read books where the paragraphs are formatted inconsistently or in the wrong places.  I've read books where entire sections are in italics for no particular reason.  All these things are a result of careless ebook formatting, and do nothing to recommend your book to readers.

So take your time.  You don't need to pay someone else to do it, but you do need to invest in your book by not rushing through this final, important step to getting it into the hands of readers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

TAT Kulisch's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Fated Paths (The Demons Family Chronicles) by TAT Kulisch

1- Is Demons just a surname, like Smith or O’Brien, or should readers expect the supernatural?

The Demons are a "gang" of friends, who claim each other as family. Each of the members have a tragic background, and believe God has cast them aside, therefore, they call themselves Demons. Readers can expected some supernatural phenomenon and magical realism.

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

The best advice I could ever give is, write from your heart. If you don't enjoy the story you're writing, why would you expect your readers to enjoy reading it. It's your story and you voice.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I've always had an active imagination. Growing up with social anxiety, I would put myself into other worlds, or at the very least, in a different place than where I really was. As a teen, I discovered a love for reading, and I started creating stories of my own. I guess you could say, the need to escape reality ignited my passion for writing.

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

My twitter handle is @TATKulisch. Author friends are Arbie Krae @arbietrart; and Juliet Cromwell @juliet_cromwell.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book at an event, perhaps the book talk at the Keokuk public library?

TAT Kulisch's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book
Here's a pic of me with Tonya Boltz at the Keokuk Book Talk on Sept. 11. This was my first official book event.

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

I'm currently writing DARKENED PATHS, the sequel to FATED PATHS. This is the second book of a four book series. After the series is complete, I plan to write three prequels, giving backstories for some of the characters, and their journey to becoming a Demon. In October, I'm participating in the Hollywood Book-to-Screen Pitch Fest.

7- How do you feel about Amazon listing your book as "Contemporary Fiction > Literary Fiction" instead of "Fantasy > Paranormal & Urban"?

Thank you for bringing to my attention about Amazon placing my book in the wrong genre category. I can understand how it could be confused as a contemporary, rather than an urban fantasy. The supernatural and magical realism is kind of subtle in my first book, but as the series progresses, readers will easily know something is up. Amazon category for Fated Paths - TAT Kulisch's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

8- I see you're part of the #LGBTQ+ community. What's your astrological sign?
#quote "Hi, I'm Alecia. I'm a Virgo. I'm 31... I'm gay. Actually, I'm not, but that's not important. My point is, I would like, in the world, the same boring response that I get from, "Hi, I'm a Virgo" I would like "Hi, I'm gay" to elicit the same response. - P!nk.

TAT Kulisch here. I'm a bisexual Taurus, who is bullhead beyond belief and doesn't stop until I get what I want. When life throws me lemons, I throw them back because I'm not fond of lemonade.

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

Author name: @se4realhinton
Title: The Outsiders
Love because: The reason I love this book so much is because, at the time of my life I read it, I was struggling with manic depression. This book literally saved my life. As I read the story, I could relate to the characters and I no longer felt alone. Though my home life was stable and happy, my social life was awful. Besides my social anxiety, I had to hide my sexuality; otherwise, the bullying I received at school would be a thousand times worse. Just knowing I was a "greaser" like Ponyboy and Johnny, I felt that, though life was tough, it was still worth living.

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

Besides my mother, of course, my biggest fan is Sara Ruble, a girl I went to school with. After reading my book, she has gone out of her way to spread the word to her family and friends, and she shows her support on my other social media pages. She loves the passion I put into the story and how she can see some of our classmates in some of the characters. She contacted me and said that she was laughing one minute and grabbing tissues the next. A random fan contacted me and said she was in love with Coven Baker, the playful pervert of the Demons family.

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

The emotions I hope to evoke into reads are compassion and acceptance. One of the key messages in my book is don't judge others based on appearance and social norms. Get to know someone as an individual, learn their history, and accept them for who they are.
The scene that states this message the strongest is on pp. 262,263. Angela is talking to her mother, who is really judgmental, and she is explaining that her mother should judge the Demons based on a name or their outer appearance, but to get to know who they really are, and once she did, she would love them as much as Angela, herself, loves them.

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

Watching other authors on YouTube, helped me improve my writing skills. The advice they shared, was extremely helpful. Not only did I learn some tips about improving my writing skills, but I also learned about how to research for publishers and agents, and what to expect when pitching my story to them.

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

Coven Baker; not only is he the playful pervert, who enjoys tormenting his fellow members, but his eyes have an unique purple pigment to them.

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

The entire Demons family are the main characters. J.P., the leader, is Native-American, Seth Martinez is Latino, J.P.'s girlfriend, Marlee, and Angela Reese are both bi-racial, the Ryce children, Coven Baker, and Brady Harris have mental disorders, ranging from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. There are a couple of gay characters, but I can't say who without spoiling the story. In future books, we will discover a lesbian couple, and another character will have a physical disability, sorry, can't say what kind.

15- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Brady Harris. Though he is intimidating because of his huge stature and hostile attitude, he is surprisingly gentle, extremely protective, and very soft spoken.

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

I don't quite understand this question, so I'll do my best to answer it. The book is an example as to what society should be. The Demons love and support each other, no matter what. When outsiders have difficult questions, the Demons, instead of getting offended, they explain their situation and try to educate those around them.

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

The only thing I can think of to change is the cost of self-publishing. For those of us, who have anxiety and self-esteem issues, it is crushing when our work is rejected by agents and traditional publishing companies. Their writing may be an excellent story, and the rejections may not have anything to do with the quality of the work, but just receiving a rejection letter, can crush a writers spirits and make them give up. I understand this is probably a really cheesy answer, but it is what I feel in my heart.

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

I'm guilty at judging a book by its cover. I know, I know. I'm contradicting myself about not judging based on outer appearance; however, there's a big difference between judging another human and judging an object. If a cover is dull and boring, I get the impression that the author or publisher didn't care enough for the story to design the cover to capture a reader's attention. I feel the cover should give an idea to the reader, as to what to expect in the story. For me, if the cover is blah, then the story most likely is too.

19- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

Honestly, I'm embarrassed to say, I don't know of any book reviewers, or if I do, I didn't know it. If anyone has any suggestions, throw them my way.

20- How will you measure your publishing performance?

The best way for me to measure performance is through the quarterly reports I receive on book sales.

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

I've always wanted to self-publish. I'm the type of person, who likes to be in control, and I wanted to make sure the story, I spent two long years writing, was going to receive the cover it deserved, and be formatted in a way that would make the story even more attractive.

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

Word of mouth is the best marketing strategy I know of. This includes using social media to get the word out there. Writing isn't a get rich quick business, and spreading the word by talking to random strangers, friends, family, doing interviews, and advertising on various social media sites, is the most affordable marketing tool. Once the money starts rolling in, other methods will help advance your progress.

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?

If anyone knows of any book reviewers, please send them my way. Also, feel free to discuss any of my answers, I'd be thrilled to know what you have to say. (Just be respectful, please).

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

The Demons Family Chronicles is written in an Own Voices style. Other than my sexuality, I do struggle with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I'm also legally blind, giving me a physical disability. Here are all my social media accounts, where you can follow me.
On twitter: @TATKulisch; Instagram: @TATKulisch; and on Facebook @TATKulisch.

Fated Paths (The Demons Family Chronicles) by TAT Kulisch

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What it's Like to Be a Full-Time Writer

In August, my partner and I moved from Minnesota to Belgium. I looked for jobs, but I was struggling to find something I was qualified for that would also enable me to apply for a work permit (as it turns out, the law is very complicated – who knew). So I figured, hey, we have enough money for us to survive for a year if I don’t work; why not use this year to finally finish my manuscript and find an agent? Sounds like a breeze!

Narrator: It was not a breeze.

No it was not. By the time a month had passed, I’d barely done anything. It was infuriating. After years of wishing I had time to just sit at home and write, that was my reality – but the words refused to come. For weeks, I spent more time than I’d care to admit yelling “WHAT THE HELL” in my mind as I stared at blank pages or chapters that simply refused my revision efforts.

It seemed so backwards. Six years of college yielded countless notebooks that started out with the good intentions of taking relevant notes but devolved into mostly plot ideas and character descriptions with phrases like “lake turnover” and “anaerobic respiration” crammed into the margins. All the ideas that had come to me when I really should’ve been paying attention to my classes had completely fled my mind.

After struggling for several weeks, I talked to one of my critique partners about how lost I felt. I had tried setting daily goals for myself, like “write for two hours” or “write 2,000 words,” but neither had really worked. Could I count time spent staring at my computer as “writing time?” What if I deleted a couple thousand words, did that put me in the red for that day? I spent way more time thinking about the act of writing than I was spending on actual writing.

My CP gave me two great suggestions. She knew that I had previously been a competitive short story writer, and that I’d been a part of a free-association writing group in Minnesota. She tasked me with writing a short story every day for the remainder of my time in Belgium. At first, I thought there was no way I’d be able to do that – it seemed like so much work and I am, admittedly, very lazy. But then I realized that I’d able to do just that when I was thirteen when there were actual stakes, and there was no reason I couldn’t do it now.

So, every day, I find time to sit down for thirty minutes maximum and write a short story based on a writing prompt from Reddit. (If you’re interested in doing this, visit r/writingprompts for free writing prompts every day. You could even make an account and post your stories if you’re looking for feedback!) Amazingly, as of today I’ve written a short story every day for more than a month. They’re not all good – in fact, some of them are downright terrible – but about once a week or so I write something that I’m proud of, and that makes the bad stories worth it. I’ve even written a couple pieces that I’d like to expand into full manuscripts. I try to choose various genres to write and vary the length to push my creative boundaries. Sometimes I let myself write the full thirty minutes, and sometimes I force myself to only write six sentences. No point doing the same thing over and over expecting to learn something.

The second suggestion my CP gave me was to read THE 90-DAY NOVEL. (This is not an advertisement, this is just what happened.) If I was skeptical of my ability to write a short story every day, I was downright suspicious of a book that claimed to be able to teach me to write an entire novel in three months. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo with varying success since 2014, but I usually cheat and use it as a way to force myself to work on existing manuscripts. I’m very much a planner – I want to know exactly who my characters are, what motivates them, what the conflict is, and I usually write an entire novel’s worth of worldbuilding material before I even get started writing the actual story. Doing all of that in a very compressed time frame seemed impossible.

As of this writing, I’m only on day twelve of the ninety days, but it’s going better than I anticipated. I started out with a vague idea for my manuscript – I wanted to write about an all-female combat robotics team – and I’ve already outlined the three acts; created a detailed background for my protagonist, antagonist, and love interest; and come up with a pretty solid opening and ending.
Even with all this planning, though, I’m still nervous for the point where I start writing the first draft (which doesn’t start until day twenty-seven; everything before that is brainstorming). I’ve already tried to write this story twice, and both times I crashed and burned after less than a week. Luckily, I started doing this just in time for NaNoWriMo, which will begin about a week after I start writing. I’m hoping that I’ll be motivated enough to finish this thing and I won’t fall off the word-count wagon.

For a long time, I thought that if what I wrote wasn’t good, there was no point writing it. My flash drive is a graveyard of abandoned manuscripts, and you wouldn’t believe the number of notebooks I have in a storage unit in Wisconsin littered with tidbits of stories I never even began writing. I thought this year would be a panacea – a chance to finally be a full-time writer and turn the frustration of not having enough time to write into an amazing manuscript that would go on to become a cultural phenomenon, or maybe just a thing a few people enjoyed reading, I don’t really know. So far it hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, but the year isn’t over yet. 

I think I can do this.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Dear O'Abby - Is it a good idea to put a description of my novel into the title?

Dear O'Abby,

Why do some authors make their book titles, on Amazon, crazy long? And is putting a description in the book title ever a good, sale boosting idea, or is it just super annoying and amateur looking?  For example:  Lake Lane: Humorous romantic and fun Texan action adventure paranormal mystery detective political suspense thriller urban fantasy (Steakhouse Mystery Book 2): T-Bone.*


Anonymous Buyer

Dear Anonymous Buyer,

This is an interesting question, and until you brought it up, something I hadn't ever come across before.  Yes, some book titles on Amazon are very long, but usually that's because the book is part of a series and the author or publisher has included the series information as part of the title (Example).  This serves to quickly let the reader know the book is part of a series and where in the series it fits.

The example you provided has the series information, but also a brief description of the genre and even some descriptors you might find in a review.  This serves only to make the title look ridiculously long.  It is also confusing because the title on the book jacket doesn't match the title on the page.  In fact, without looking closely, it's difficult to know what the book's title actually is.

It also feels very much like the author doesn't know what genre their book is. I've never heard of an action adventure paranormal mystery detective political suspense thriller urban fantasy before, and in physical bookstores, where would you find it on a shelf?  Putting this many descriptors in the title feels to me like the author is trying to game search engines to get the book to appear more often when readers are searching for something in their preferred genre.  They may not be looking for an action adventure, but for a paranormal mystery, but because this title has all the words there, it could show up in that reader's search.

Obviously I don't know the sales history of this title, so I can't tell you if putting the description in the title is a great sales boosting idea, but in my humble opinion, it does nothing to make me want to read the book.  It looks amateur, and screams to me that the book is self published, possibly by an author who hasn't researched how to sell a book, or even how to load their book to Amazon.

But who knows?  Maybe the super long title makes the book stand out.  It made you, Anonymous Buyer, pause long enough to pose the question which means we are now talking about the book.  And  while obviously everyone would prefer good publicity, negative publicity also gets people talking about a book and generates a level of curiosity about a title.

Anything is possible, right?

*Not an actual book title, but based on several different titles found on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Kari Bovee's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Girl with a Gun: An Annie Oakley Mystery by Kari Bovee

1- I read a quote. "When a man hits a target, they call him a marksman. When I hit a target, they call it a trick." It was attributed to Annie Oakley. Someone else argued she never said it. Thoughts?

I have never seen this come across in any of my research. I think Annie was pretty well respected for her marksmanship by men and women alike, and she truly appreciated her fans.

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

Write what you want to write, not what the market dictates. If you aren’t completely sold on what you are writing, no one else will be sold on it either.

3- What's one thing most people don't know about horses?

Many people don’t appreciate what sensitive beings horses are--emotionally and physically. Because they are large and strong, people think they need to be muscled around. You really don’t need to bully them to get what you want. When a horse acts out, it is usually due to fear or pain, or a horrible memory of either. That doesn’t mean you should be a push-over for your horse, that would be irresponsible and dangerous, but learning to communicate with them is key. In the wild, horses look for leadership in the herd. It’s important to learn how to be a leader to your horse. Show him respect and leadership, and he will be a willing partner.

4- What ignited your passion for writing?

Reading. I’ve always loved books and getting lost in a story. Reading and writing can transport you to anywhere you want to go—and even some places you don’t, which is pretty powerful. From a very young age, I’ve always liked the idea of letting my imagination soar and creating a world of my own.

5- Annie Oakley has an Indian assistant in your book. Where or what tribe is that person from?

Kimimela is a fictional character, but she is from the Lakota Sioux tribe. Many of the performers in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show were Sioux, so I thought it fitting. In my story, Kimi’s parents were killed by some of Buffalo Bill Cody’s men when he was an Indian Scout. He felt bad for Kimi and her brothers, so he took them home to be raised by his wife, and then later brought them to his show where he employed them.

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

My Twitter handle is @KariBovee. Shout outs to @michellecox33, @marthaconway, and @KristenNoelFischer

7- Would you share a picture with us of your book with a horse?

Love of horses - Kari Bovee's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Photo of me and my horse, Handsome. Handsome was the inspiration for Annie's horse Buck in my books!

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

Short term: To release the second and third books in the Annie Oakley series, and to launch another series that I’ve been working on.

Long term: To keep writing no matter what! I have so many ideas for books, I want to just keep going and going and going!

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

Author name: Elizabeth Crook
I don’t know if she has a Twitter handle, I’ve seen posts about her, but not by her. I tried to look her up and didn’t find anything. If you are out there Elizabeth, I will follow you!!
Title: The Night Journal
Love because: The book was a pick from someone in my book club and I absolutely loved it, partly because it takes place in New Mexico, where I am from, but mostly because she handled the story of present day with the story from the past so beautifully. Her imagery of the southwest, particularly of New Mexico was breathtaking!

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?

What I hope readers get out of my book is a sense of hope and empowerment. Especially women. Annie Oakley came from nothing, was catapulted to fame for her talents, and took the world by storm in a man’s game. She never felt the need to be anyone other than herself. She never forgot where she came from and she never let fame give her an inflated sense of herself. She seemed to be a person entirely comfortable in her skin, no matter what the circumstance.

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

I think it’s a constant desire to learn. I’ve attended many workshops on craft, online and live. Some of my favorite teaching authors are Alexandra Sokoloff with her Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (@AlexSokoloff), Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering (@storyfix), and Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel (@DonMaass). Margie Lawson (@MargieLawson) does some really intensive writing and editing workshops and I’ve attended several of her Immersions. I’m always looking for retreats or workshops where I think I will learn something new. Also, hiring professional editors has improved my craft because I learn so much from their critique. It takes a while to find one that really resonates with you, but once you do, it’s so helpful.

12- Where do you stand on gun control versus gun rights?


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

I think for Annie Oakley it was her size. She was very tiny, 5’ tall, and slight with a very small waist, but she was pretty tough. Also, she always dressed extremely modestly – covered from head to toe, never showing any skin.

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

Kimimela, Annie’s Indian Assistant is diverse in many ways. She is shunned and actually hated by another character in the book, simply because she is Native American, and she is shunned by many of her own people in the show because her daughter is usual and of uncertain birth. (Don’t want to give a spoiler!) The Native American peoples during the time period of this book (1885) were being taken off their lands and carted to reservations across the country. Buffalo Bill hired many of them on at very good wages to perform in his show. The entire show was a caricature and exaggeration of the Wild West which was dying. I’m sure some people took offense, but it was also extremely popular.

15- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

I think the journalist Emma Wilson. Emma came from an incredibly wealthy family, but when her mother and father insisted she marry “of her class” she totally rebelled and got engaged to a police officer and became a journalist resulting in her being cut off from the family fortune. What her mother doesn’t know, is that her father has forgiven her and still gives her a generous allowance. Emma loves getting her hands dirty with work, but also loves her fine clothes, being pampered, and having high tea. She is so much fun, I’d love to hang out with her.

16- Who is your favorite woman of political power and influence from history, and why?

Probably Elizabeth I of England because she was the longest ruling female monarch until Queen Victoria. She did it her way. She was under constant pressure to marry, but she knew if she did, she would have to give up ultimate control of the country to her husband. I think that must have been incredibly difficult at that time, but she had a vision for what she wanted and how she wanted to rule, and she wasn’t swayed.

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

I would love to explore the idea of creativity workshops. I’d like to inspire other authors and readers to embrace their creativity and their imagination. Creativity is something that needs to be nurtured, and we live in a world where it is often squashed. Even if people can’t make a living with their creativity, they can still indulge themselves in it. Everyone has creativity in them, and if people allowed themselves to explore their creativity, the world would be a better place.

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

I love covers, so the cover has to attract me first. Then I read the back blurb, and if I’m still not completely sold, I read the first page or two. I think it’s pretty common, which is why these things are all so important for authors to know.

19- How will you measure your publishing performance?

Well, number of books sold is a good measure, but I write because I want to connect with people, to share with them and entertain them, so a good fan base would also be a great measure for me.

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

I’m still figuring that out. My novel came out in June of 2018, and I just released another one on September 18. I’m still in the learning phase with marketing, but from what everyone has told me, generating content is the best thing you can do to improve your sales. Keep the books coming. Writing and publishing is a long game. Nothing happens quickly, so the key is to get yourself out there. Learn about marketing strategies and try different things.

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 think the question regarding women of political power in history. I like to write about empowered women in history, so it always interests me who people have liked or admired in the past—or the present.

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

Blurb for Girl with a Gun:

Fifteen-year-old Annie Oakley is the sole supporter of her widowed mother and two younger siblings. An Expert markswoman and independent spirit, she hunts game to sell to the local mercantile to make ends meet instead of accepting a marriage proposal that could solve all her problems, including the impending foreclosure of her family’s farm.

After a stunning performance in a shooting contest against famous sharpshooter Frank Butler, Annie is offered a position in the renowned Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Finally, she has a chance to save her family’s farm—and make her dreams come true. But after her catapult to fame, a series of crimes take place in the Wild West Show including the death of Annie’s Indian assistant. The coroner claims the death was due to natural causes, but Annie is unconvinced. Then her prized horse, Buck—a major part of her act—is stolen, and she realizes that someone is out to get her.

With the help of a sassy, blue-blooded reporter, Annie sets out to find her horse, solve the crimes, and clear her good name—before everything she’s worked for is destroyed.


Empowered women in history, horses, unconventional characters, and real-life historical events fill the pages of award-winning writer Kari Bovee’s historical mystery musings and manuscripts.

Born in northern New Mexico, Kari developed a love of reading, writing, and history early in life. Her most treasured Christmas gift as a young child was a toy typewriter. After graduating with a B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing, Kari found work as a technical writer at a Fortune 500 tech company. But, her love of story-telling never waned. While staying at home with two young children, Kari wrote her first novel and hasn’t stopped. She and her husband live happily in rural Corrales, New Mexico with their horses, dogs, and cats.

Social media links:


Girl with a Gun: An Annie Oakley Mystery by Kari Bovee

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Sensitivity Readers

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about critique partners and beta readers. One further category of note that has become much more visible recently is sensitivity readers.

What does a sensitivity reader do?
A sensitivity reader's job is to help identify instances of bias in your writing, particularly if you are writing characters of a culture, race, or other group of people to which you do not belong. Even if you do your research, you may put internalized bias onto the page when you write outside of your own experience. The sensitivity reader role exists to find that bias and help you eliminate it.

Where should you look for sensitivity readers?
Unlike critique partners and beta readers, sensitivity reading is best left to professionals. They have been trained to seek out specific language and critically examine the way you as a writer have portrayed your story. There are databases available for searching for a sensitivity reader of a particular group, and many are on social media sites like Twitter and have their own websites. You will most likely have to pay for their services, either by the hour or a flat fee for the manuscript. Keep in mind, you will probably need more than one sensitivity reader, just as you will need more than one critique partner. One person's experience as, say, a Chinese-American woman is not the same as another's. Having multiple perspectives can only help your work.

If you choose to employ a sensitivity reader, be open to their feedback. Some prior sensitivity readers cite pushback from writers as the reason they left their jobs. Remember that their feedback is meant to help you. It's hard to turn over your work to someone who, it seems, is looking for flaws in your work. But that's just what everyone else looking at your manuscript is doing. Just as a critique partner seeks out the issues with your plot or worldbuilding, a good sensitivity reader looks for problematic language as well, just with a different goal in mind.

Isn't sensitivity reading the same as censorship?
Sensitivity reading is not censorship. Censorship is telling someone that they can't write something, point blank. Sensitivity readers aren't likely to come right out and say that you can't describe a character's physical characteristics in a certain way; they're more likely to ask if you've done your research, thought about the way your phrasing will affect the story and the perception of the character, explored other options to write the same thing in a way that isn't cliche or damaging. It's a role meant to help you be responsible with your words, not to stop you from writing them.

Now go forth and be prolific - but do your research.