Tuesday, June 25, 2019

July Pass or Pages Genre Reveal



The genre for July 2019 Pass or Pages is...

Young Adult Horror

Here are the important dates for this round:

July 2nd: Agent panel announcement
July 8th-12th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
July 22nd-26th: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Please do not send us adult horror, we can tell the difference. Best of luck!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Which reading format is the best?

Today is my first “regular” post on this blog.
Yay!

My goal is for you to find the Monday blog posts entertaining and fun.  And that you LEAVE A COMMENT!  I also want you to leave a comment on our other posts too, so let's start here and then keep moving forward.

I obtain most of my books from the library.
Don't you wish you were here?
Usually I check out audio books because I read while commuting throughout SoCal, but I also read on my Kindle.

Back in 2014, before the movie was released, I borrowed THE MARTIAN as an e-book and read it on my Kindle.  The plot was too slow and I couldn't finish it.  I then checked out the hard-cover book.  Couldn't finish that either.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
But I didn't want to give up on the story because it was apparently good enough that a movie was then in production.  So I tried the audio book.
It was so funny that at one point I was laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face, my nose was running, and I couldn't see.
Even an icon can't keep its eyes open when laughing this much
Fortunately I was able to pull off onto the shoulder of the freeway and stop the car before I crashed.

I write MG and a few months ago I tried reading ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY on my Kindle.  Did not finish.
Here's your cute internet cat meme for the week
This one's for our down-under readers

But I recently found it at the library as an audio book.  I'm half-way through and this time I'm finding it fun.

Have you ever started reading a book that for whatever reason you just couldn't finish, but you tried reading it in a different format which made it interesting or fun and you finished it?
 Let us know in the comments!


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Dear O'Abby, Punctuation woes

Dear O'Abby,

I'm published by a small press and have discovered during the editorial process that they have a style guide that forbids the use of semi-colons in their books.  Now, I don't over-use semi-colons, but I do use them where it's appropriate, and I like the feel and rhythm they give my prose.  Having removed them all for my editor, I feel like several passages now feel wrong.  The rhythm is off.  The meaning, of those sentences hasn't changed exactly, but has subtly shifted.

Do you have any advice? I mean, why have a policy like that in the first place?

Yours,

Semi-Punctuated

Dear Semi-Punctuated,

I don't think there is anything you can do in this situation. It's frustrating, I know. My small press publisher has the same policy and it irritates me every time my editor removes one of my lovingly placed semi-colons.

If you want to continue writing for this publisher, you will need to work within their style guide.  Maybe try writing your next book without any semi-colons.  Or edit them out yourself before you submit the manuscript so at least you have control over the way the sentences sound and feel without the semi-colons.

Or of course, you could look for a different publisher for your next book.  But you may find other publishers have the same style-guide.  And if not using semi-colons is the only complaint you have about your publisher, you might want to think long and hard about this option.  If you're happy with everything else they do, is this really a deal breaker?

As for why a publisher might have a policy like that, I can only hazard a guess that they were getting too many manuscripts in which authors over-used semi-colons or mis-used them frequently.  Or perhaps the editors themselves are unsure about how to use them properly and felt it was easier to just say no than to try and figure out if each one a writer uses is correct or not.  I don't know.

I know this doesn't solve your issue, but hopefully you now know you are not alone in this boat.

X O'Abby




Wednesday, June 19, 2019

J. Lawson's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions and #coffee at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Amulets (The Amulets Trilogy) by J. Lawson


1- Your book is in paperback. Any plans to offer it as an ebook as well, and why or why not?

The book was available in paperback only for the first month and is now available in e-book as well. I originally wanted to coordinate the release of the e-book with the title and cover debut of the second book in the series, but the cover artist I work with, Cheyenne Leslie Hurst, was working with a hand injury and that was delayed. She is amazing and I’m so lucky to be working with her.


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

Find a place you can be comfortable and productive. Try multiple locations and figure out what does and doesn’t work about each. Many people think it would be somewhere quiet and alone, but I find I’m most productive when writing in public where I can have short bursts of hyper focus and then distract for a bit before another burst.


3- What ignited your passion for writing?

Reading was always something I loved from a young age; getting lost in worlds and events that truly affected me, even if they weren’t real. I always thought it would be amazing to be able to create and write something like that for other people. Once I started, I knew I couldn’t stop. It became an outlet for me; something I could do to feel good.

4- You have characters who work in a bookstore. What prompted you to pick that location?

I love bookstores, I feel at home in bookstores, and I’ve worked in bookstores multiple times throughout my life. I know many readers feel the same, so it would be an anchor of sorts through the rest of the events. The characters in the book enjoy escaping the more difficult aspects of their life and immersing themselves in other worlds they can find in the store; something else I think most readers can relate to.

5- 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 @AuthorLawson. I’d love to shout out to @JenniferFlaig, @therealzombres, and @ThePenguinBard. These authors are my support net. They’re incredibly talented and have been amazing at helping me develop along my journey.

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book by the trees



7- Jordan, Georgia, and Sawyer -- a country, a state, and a town. Coincidence?

Complete coincidence!! That’s crazy and I love it. I never would have noticed that, but now I need to do some soul searching to see if there was something subconscious going on there. Technically, another couple of characters in the next book have names that could be city names as well. That’s bizarre; you’re freaking me out.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I put a lot of stock in recommendations from people whose taste I trust. I also love to read local and indie authors’ books because we all gotta stick together! When I’m looking on my own, I start looking within a specific genre based on whatever mood I’m in at the time. Once I’m there, it’s all about the back of the books and whether they grab me. Writing blurbs for my books is painful, but they really are an amazing tool for drawing interest.

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!

My all-time favorite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She’s a little behind the times in terms of social media so no Twitter handle. It’s a shame because I’d follow the heck out of her if she did! Real-time favorite is probably:
Author name: Karen Marie Moning @KarenMMoning
Title: Darkfever (the whole series is amazing)
Love because: In terms of modern fantasy, it does the best job of world building in an already existent world. She writes characters so clearly without an indecent amount of superfluous detail. It seems effortless. In my limited experience, making something seem effortless is ironically one of the hardest things to do.

Good choice! That is on my TBR/ wishlist.


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

I am fortunate to have many supportive people in my life who are fans. My best friend, Laura, has been emotionally and creatively invested in this whole process with me and she’s one of my biggest fans. She says she’s drawn into a world that’s different from her own but still relatable. She can see herself as a patron at the book store getting to know the characters makes it easy to understand how they can make the decisions they do because it’s what’s right. She’s a treasure and I appreciate her so much.

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

I really wanted the book to be an effortless read. To have that happen, I needed the characters to be relatable so the reader could connect with them and their experiences. There is a scene in the middle of the book where Jordan’s frustration with her current situation finally boils over and she had a short but emotional rant calling out everyone’s involvement. I felt a lot of feelings while writing it. I hope that comes through to the readers.

12- What is your favorite drink?

coffee cup image
Coffee, coffee, a thousand times, coffee. It is word juice, creation brew, and magic bean water. Coffee can take any mania I'm feeling and bring it back down to baseline. I have coffee with me almost any time I'm writing or editing. It's part of the process. Even the smell is conducive to creativity for me. I seriously love coffee. The people at our local diner know me and bring it without asking when I show up. Same at two of the local Starbucks that I frequent. Coffee is a true and loyal friend.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I’ve touched on it before, but I love how fantasy books offer readers an escape and I hope my books can do that as well. At the same time, relatability is really important to me. I want people to read my work and think “I totally understand how they feel” or “Oh yeah, I know someone like that.”

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

None of my characters are too distinctive visually. I love Mama Landry’s dialect. It’s time consuming to write but satisfying to read once I get it right. Most of the main characters love coffee; something I relate to!

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

In this series, it’s actually a secondary character who is the most diverse. All the other characters in the book come from the same small Vermont town, but Mama Landry is a black woman with a heavy dialect who really stands out while somehow still fitting in. Her views on life, death, an existence in general are different than those around her and she brings a noticeably different perspective to the things she’s involved in. I adore her.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I enjoy FantasyCafe @fantasycafe. I’ve found a number of books I really enjoyed from reading their review and they tend to be pretty accurate for my tastes.

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

I looked into standard publishing and I couldn’t come close to affording it. I knew querying was an option, but I honestly just wanted to get the book out there and in people’s hands, so the fastest and most fiscally plausible option was to self-publish, which I did. KDP is a great way to self-publish. It is user friendly and their support, which I’m fortunate to have only needed to contact twice, are fantastic.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

Oh my gosh, book reviews are so incredibly important! They can help a reader decide whether they want to give a book a chance. Especially as a self-published author, word of mouth is one of the strongest tools we have. That being said, reviews need to be written in a useful way. If I read a review and it just says the book was amazing or the book was awful, that’s not useful. WHY was it good or awful? I want to know what specifically about it was good or bad. IT also potentially lets the author know what they can use to apply to future projects. Well-written reviews (whether positive or negative) are incredibly useful feedback.

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

What are the three main things you look for and/or appreciate in a fantasy novel or series?

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

This book is a dream come to light. I still have a hard time believing something I envisioned during a nap has been actualized. The outpouring of support has been humbling. Book two should be out in summer of 2019 and I hope to have the final book out by summer of 2020. I also have an LGBTQ humor novel coming out later this year as well.

Blurb:

A centuries-old war, a lineage of magic thought long dead, and a girl desperately struggling to find her place.
Jordan has a secret; one that’s kept her intentionally antisocial. So, when new girl Georgia moves to town and begins working at the same bookstore, she is naturally apprehensive. Yet, discovering their unanticipated connection makes her question everything she’s ever believed.
When they discover unusual happenings linked to the old mill, they along with Sawyer, handsome grandson of the town crank, find themselves forced to investigate a potentially evil source of conflict threatening the safety of their town. Will Jordan and Georgia’s common gifts, along with Sawyer’s courage and charm, be enough to get the answers they need to save the town? Or does letting yourself care just mean you have more to lose?

Bio:

J. Lawson was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. She moved to Peoria, Illinois in 2008, where she currently resides with her husband, son, and two dogs. She graduated from Western Illinois University with a Master's in English Literature. The Amulets (book one in The Amulets Trilogy) is her debut novel. Lawson enjoys reading fantasy, thriller, mystery, and most varieties of fiction. She also loves 80s-90s rock music. Drinking coffee and spending time with friends is her happiest pastime.

Social Media Links: Twitter: @AuthorLawson
Facebook: http://facebook.com/AuthorJ.Lawson
Website: http://www.authorlawson.com




The Amulets (The Amulets Trilogy) by J. Lawson

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Takeaways from WRiTE CLUB

I recently volunteered as a reader for WRiTE CLUB, which is a tournament-style writing event that pits 500-word writing samples against one another for eternal glory – or, you know, prizes. As a reader, I had to choose the top 30 entries from over 100 writing samples, and sometimes the choice was hard. Other times, though, there were things that stood out that made the decision easy – and not in a good way.

Don’t have the scene start with a character waking up. There’s a quote from The Office that is particularly relevant here: “When you recount your day, never say you woke up. It’s a waste of your time. That’s how every day’s begun, for everyone, since the dawn of man.” I mean, think about it – when someone asks what you did today, you never start with, “Well, I woke up…” The same goes for your writing, and this is especially true for your hook. The hook should be uniquely relevant to your main character in your plot in your setting, and it should make the reader want to keep reading.

Give the reader a reason to be sympathetic to your main character. Unlikeable MCs can be done well, but they need a redeeming feature, something that makes the reader root for them despite their unlikability. Maybe the MC is an alcoholic, but they have a sweet spot for kittens. Maybe they’re a stuck-up snob, but they have a great sense of self-deprecating humor. Whatever it is, the reader needs something to connect with that humanizes an otherwise bad person.

Be careful with dialect and languages. Dialect is tricky. Trying to capture the essence of spoken language in writing is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to do. It’s what made Robert Burns famous, and H.P. Lovecraft infamous. When in doubt, it’s probably in your best interest to skip the dialect and instead mention it in dialogue tags (“I don’t think so,” he growled in a thick Scottish brogue). Similarly, if you’re writing something with a made-up language, try to limit the new words you use in your opening. Your reader is already entering a foreign world; adding a foreign language right off the bat can be too much. It’s like getting into a hot tub: you ease in, you don’t jump in right away.

Show, don’t tell. I know, it’s been said a million times, but based on how many times I gave this note, it can always be said once more. Here are two examples I whipped up based on a quote by Anton Checov:

  • The full moon shone bright in the sky above the burned-out house.
  • Moonlight glinted on a shower of broken glass, illuminating the house’s burned-out husk.

HUGE difference. Weave your descriptions into the narrative as much as you can so the plot can continue to move along even as information is being revealed. I like to think of it as tricking the reader into learning about my characters or setting when they really think they’re getting plot.

For the love of Cthulhu, don’t use “hmm.” Hmm, mmm, huh, and variations thereupon are a waste of precious word count, especially in your first couple pages. Yes, we say them when we’re talking out loud, but they’re exceedingly rare in print. There are other ways to indicate that a character is hesitating or taking a moment to think before they respond. 

And lastly…

Use one space after a period, not two. Using two spaces is no longer standard; this is a remnant from the typewriter days. (Don’t @ me, I have a Swiss Hermes Baby on my desk.) You can fix this with a simple “find-replace” in Word.

Best of luck with your revisions!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Introducing Dena, the newest OA blogger!

So, starting from the beginning, my mother reports that the day I was born, it was over 110 degrees and she had no air-conditioning.

Not that far back?  Okay.

In early May, I saw a tweet in my feed that said Operation Awesome was looking for a new team member.  I'd been following the blog for a while, altho I'm just as guilty as most writers out here in internet-land that I read but never comment [yes, I'm giving all of you the side-eye].  After about a week of contemplating, I decided I'd like to be more involved with the online writing community, so I completed the application.

Weeks passed.  Crickets chirped.  June arrived.  I figured I hadn't been selected, and promptly forgot about it.  Kinda like life in the query trenches, no?

Then what should show up in my email box but an invitation to join the team.  I thought - Wow, this is the strangest job-application success I'd ever not interviewed for.

I'll never know whether I was the only fool applicant, or whether the OA team members each had to take a few days off work to go thru the towering electronic stack.  The bottom line is – here I am.  Ta-da!

I know you are all super excited to welcome me to your internet wanderings. You're still reading this, aren't you????  Your first order of “welcome Dena” business is to go back to the story we posted yesterday here at Operation Awesome [my first contribution to this blog, maybe I'll use it as a publication credit in my query], and leave a comment.  It can be witty, insightful, an honest review, or an inquiry as to the welfare of our lovable mascot, Oliver Awesome.  [He's doing awesome, thanks for asking.]

You [yes I'm looking at YOU] need to leave your mark on this blog.  Go forth and comment!  It makes the blog much more fun to read.  I promise we won't bite you.

And that's my job here.  I'll be posting on Mondays – everyone's favorite day of the week – with fun writing-related questions and asking begging pleading threatening encouraging you to comment.  Hopefully the questions will be sufficiently interesting and/or fun that you'll feel COMPELLED to comment.  Give us your two cents.  Or three cents.  Or even zero point zero zero zero one cents.  We want all your cents!  Make Mondays Great Again!  Er, maybe I won't use that last tag-line.......

Okay enough of the fun stuff.  Moving on to a little about me.  Are you still awake?  I write MG [and a stray non-MG that insisted I write it].  I have two completed manuscripts and I hope to query one of them in 2020.  In my non-writing time, I'm a trial attorney in Southern California.  I also blog and tweet about interesting and/or humorous legal and military topics.  If that sounds remotely entertaining to you, I'd love to follow you back.

Now, make me proud of all of you and help me accomplish my purpose on this blog.  Go forth and comment!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Caged Bird #WEP #WEPFF #IWSG #FlashFiction

#WEP Caged Bird #WEPFF Operation Awesome's Oliver is in jail for writing crimes.


Free Oliver Awesome


By: The Operation Awesome Team

Nathaniel: Oliver Awesome was no stranger to prison. His first time in The Big Cage came practically right after he learned to hold a pen with his wing. When they put him away this time, they didn’t even bother taking prints of his feathers. Last time, they got him for infodumping too much in the opening paragraph of his unfinished manuscript. But he’d violated probation when his editor came across this line in the first draft of his query:

“COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF BUTTER is an Adult Historical Romance complete at 100,000 words. It chronicles the adventures of Julia Child, a KGB spy and a trenchcoat full of gnomes.”

Oliver learned the hard way that an Oxford comma could mean the difference between three characters having a quirky, absurdist road trip and calling Julia Child both a Russian secret police officer and a long emo jacket full of tiny mythical creatures. They were using any excuse to put him away at this point.

He put a tick mark on the wall for every word in the edited version of his manuscript. A cage was no place for a bird, but he wasn’t worried. He knew he would get out eventually. Because the most dangerous animals of all were the creative and carnivorous.

Kate: And Oliver was both.  The prison diet of birdseed and water was supposed to weaken him, but Oliver refused to let it.  He imagined each stale husk was a mouse, fresh and juicy and delicious.  It kept both his strength and his spirits up as he stared through the bars at the lines of cages, each holding a feathered friend.

"What did they get you for?" he asked the cockatoo in the neighboring cell.

"Impersonating royalty," the cockatoo squawked back in his coarse, Australian accent.  He tossed his head, showing off the gold crown he still wore, even in prison.  "This time...  Last time it was pinching sandwiches from tourists."

Oliver shook his head.  Typical of Australian birds.  They were all crooks.  Must have learned bad habits from all those prisoners that settled the country.  But Oliver could use someone with a criminal mind.  If he was going to escape this cage, he'd need an accomplice.  And what better accomplice was there than a career criminal?  Someone whose mind was tuned to the nefarious?

"I'm Oliver," Oliver said.  "Pleased to make your acquaintance."  And to cement the burgeoning friendship, Oliver tossed a few of his choicest seeds into the cockatoo's cage.

J: The cockatoo ate the offering. "Right nice to meet such a generous fella. Name's Quentin Cocky.  What's your crime?"

Oliver relayed his story.

"That title reminds me of the movie, Butter. Human friend-of-the-feather, Jennifer Garner, is in that."

Oliver hooted and jumped around in his cage. "That's what I compared it to in my query! Another alleged crime of mine. They said comparisons are meant to be to other books, recent ones with decent ranks, and in the same genre. Not to films."

"Eh, whatda' they know?" Quentin Cocky chewed on his cage. 

"Careful, you'll hurt your beak." Oliver twisted and turned his head until, at last, he found a loose feather on each wing. "Can you keep watch for the guards?"

"Mate, that's my specialty!" 

Oliver used his quills to pick the lock. A skill he researched for his crime book THE HEN WITH THE PHOENIX EMBLEM. If anyone glanced at his search history from back then, he'd be plucked for sure. He listened to the click of the pins. His mouth opened as he puffed his throat in and out.

The cage swung open. Oliver flapped his wings, preparing for his flight of freedom.

Amren: "Wait!" Quentin hissed, and Oliver paused. "Guard's coming, mate."

Oliver quickly shut the cage door once more and ruffled his feathers, trying to make them look raggedy and unpreened. A huge raven with hulking talons appeared at the end of the hall. Sergeant McBill. 

McBill peered into the cages as he flapped past, clicking his beak harshly at any caged bird who looked back at him with the wrong spark in their eye. His talons were long and thin enough to reach through the bars and scrape out a prison tattoo on anyone who stirred his ire. Oliver shrank back with fire in his veins. He'd get free. He would. 

"What a preener," Quentin Cocky taunted.

Oliver groaned internally as McBill's flinty eyes turned their way. He should've known better than to throw in his lot with such a flashy bird - and an Australian at that. Did he learn nothing from his debut, WHEN THE CAGED BIRD DOESN'T SING? McBill hovered in front of Quentin's cage, his gaze flicking from Quentin to Oliver.

"What you say, squawker?" McBill cawed.

And as his head swung in Oliver's direction, Oliver realized that his cage door wasn't quite shut.

Dena: McBill eyed the door. “What the-?

“Lenore!” Quentin squawked.

The raven whipped around. “What'd you say, jailbird?”

“Lenore!” Quentin squawked again.

“I ain't no Lenore,” McBill snarled. “But that name does sound familiar...”

Oliver took a deep breath and exploded out of his cage. “Lenore!” Wrapping his wings around McBill, Oliver spun him around and squeezed him tight. “I've missed you so much!”

“Confound it!” McBill spluttered, attempting to extricate himself. “I ain't no Lenore!”

Oliver twirled the raven and conjured a tear. “I can't believe you're back! How've you been? We have so much to catch up on.” Reaching the open cage, he shoved McBill inside and slammed the door shut.

“Good onya, mate!” Quentin cawed.

Hoots and shrieks filled the room. Oliver plucked two more feathers and opened all the cages. The sound of furiously flapping wings filled the air.

“Cheers, mate!” Quentin said, saluting Oliver. He and the other former prisoners disappeared into the night.

Oliver turned a piercing stare on McBill. “We writers don't follow no stinking rules.” He left McBill, never flitting, still just sitting, contemplating the cage door.

McBill shook his head. “Nevermore.”





We hope you enjoyed our story of Oliver Awesome's writing crimes. Be sure to check out the other WEP entries! Click the image:

What writing crimes have you committed that would land you in the bird cage?

📢 The Operation Awesome Team is proud to introduce you to our newest member, Dena! Be sure to check out the introduction post tomorrow. 🎉

Want to learn more about cockatoos? https://www.natureaustralia.org.au

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Dear O'Abby - How Much Grit Do I Need?

Dear OAbby,

I read about this: https://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/ somewhere and was wondering, how much grit does a first time writer need?

Signed,

# AmIGoodEnough

Dear AmIGoodEnough,

I'm not entirely familiar with the scale as presented in your link, but in my opinion, all writers need a fair amount of grit, or perseverance if you prefer.

Writing is hard.  It requires you to be on your own for periods of time, mining words and stories and emotions from your brain.  And often your brain is not as cooperative as you would like it to be, tossing up shiny new ideas and characters when you know you need to finish the project you're already in the middle of.

Then when the writing is done, you have to go out there and share the stuff your brain dumped on the page with other people who will tell you everything that's wrong with it.  And you have to go back and try to fix all these things.

It's not for the faint-hearted or for those who give up on things easily.  It's easy to write something, hear that it's flawed and then move on to writing something new without ever addressing the problems in that first piece. Or to give up writing all together.  Other hobbies don't require the same level of perseverance.

The writers that will succeed are the ones who can find the grit to keep going for draft after draft, constantly moving and changing and cutting and rewriting until they have a story that shines.  But also the ones who have the grit to understand that nothing is ever going to be perfect and know when to stop.

How much grit do you have?  I got a 3.50.  Not sure I'm gritty enough for this writing thing after all...

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

N J Simmonds' Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome #ThePathKeeperWings #ZellaForever

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Path Keeper (The Indigo Chronicles Book 1) by N J Simmonds


1- Would you share some cat humor with us, please?

My biggest ever distraction as a writer are cat videos. I miss having a cat...here's a funny one!


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

As a writer it’s hard not to compare yourself to others, but worrying if your book will be commercial enough will block your creativity! Write YOUR story.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

For me, writing has always been a form of alchemy. You turn your thoughts into tiny dark symbols on a blank page, and suddenly what’s in your head is transferred into the minds of others. It’s magical. All I’ve ever wanted to do is help others escape reality for a few hours and get lost in another world.

Books were a huge part of my childhood (my father designed book club magazines, before the internet was a thing and people wanted to order books via little catalogues). Every few months he would come home with boxes and boxes of random books, our house was full of them. YA and MG weren’t official genres back in the 1980’s so I read everything from Nancy Drew and Terry Pratchett, to Steinbeck and Tolkien. I longed to create fantasy worlds of my own. As a kid I though the idea of making up characters that feel like real people to readers was a kind of superpower! I guess it is.

4- Bookshelves by the Dewey decimal system, height, genre, color... what's your preference?

COLOUR! People wonder how I find the book I’m looking for, but I’m a very visual person so I’m more likely to remember the colour of the spine and cover design than the title or name of the author.
#shelfie #bookshelf #bookrainbow N J Simmonds' Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Finally, the colourful YA bookshelf in my office complete with a bag full of booky tote bags and my own books on the top shelf!!!

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

My Twitter is @NJSimmondsTPK and I want to shout about my very lovely and talented fellow YA Fantasy writer friends Anna Day @annadayauthor and Jacqueline Silvester @Jacky_Silvester

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

#ThePathKeeperWings #ZellaForever

7- Given how our society is becoming more sensitive to triggers, should books come with warnings the way that movies and television do? (Language, sex, violence, drugs, etc)

Definitely. Although I hate the idea of censoring, I also believe that as a writer of young adult fiction I have a duty to my readers and their parents. The Path Keeper contains quite a bit of swearing, sex and violence, so it’s marketed as 16+. It also deals with the topics of death and sexual abuse, but you wouldn’t know that from the blurb, so I wouldn’t want someone recovering from a trauma to be triggered. Why not warn them? If not, it only leads to an upset reader and bad reviews!

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I hate to admit it, but an amazing front cover and hype/recommendations. Most of the books on my shelf have been picked for those two reasons alone, without even reading the blurb. In fact, I prefer to only know the genre and rough themes and not read the blurbs. Then everything is a lovely surprise!

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: Angie Thomes @angiecthomas
Title: (I love both books)
Love because: The Hate U Give was ground-breaking when it came out in 2017 and rightfully won lots of awards. The subsequent film is amazing too. It deals with the Black Lives Matter movement in a very real way. Her second book On The Come Up is about a young female rapper trying to rise above the troubles in her life and make it big – a YA, black, female ‘8 Mile’ if you like. Angie’s writing is raw and unapologetic, yet warm, funny and totally relatable. I was brought up on 90s hip hop, Fresh Prince and movies like Boyz N The Hood – so the homage to them was very impactful (even though I’m not the market intended for the book). It’s refreshing, too, to see a whole new audience of readers get introduced to the love of books because of these hard-hitting themes and fresh writing.


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

I’m very lucky to have a mini gang of readers who support me a lot, one even has a tattoo inspired by The Path Keeper! I don’t call them fans though, that’s just cringey – it’s a symbiotic relationship. Through these amazing young adults I learn a lot about what they need from writers like me, and in turn run competitions and giveaways so that I can give something back to this awesome community. I’ve even received gifts and artwork from some of them, which means the world to me!
As for who they ship – Zac and Ella, of course. They already have a hash tag: #ZellaForever

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?

Although The Path Keeper is emotional in places (a bit sad, a bit sexy and a lot thrilling) the main feedback I have received from readers is that after they put the book down they had a good think. It asks not only esoteric questions about our place in the universe, love and fate – but also makes you wonder about the choices we make and questions the concept of soul mates. It’s not a simple love story, and it’s not all spiritual and sweet, it will grab you by the throat and really throw you about. Luckily a lot of people like that, haha!

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

I adore the photos by @darkfaeritales_ (who also runs @storygramtours). The Path Keeper is being featured on one of her Instagram shoots in May and I’m really excited. Her work in whimsical, creative, inspiring and so so beautiful.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I never set out to be a didactic writer or a moral messenger, so even if the book simply helps readers escape reality for a few hours a day I’ll be happy. Although, because it has a spiritual element, it may also help them understand the complexities of love and fate. I hope they come away feeling like everything will work out OK. As you can tell by the title, the concept of life paths features heavily…so maybe they’ll find some comfort in that.

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

The Path Keeper features quite a few magical characters so they do some really cool things. Zac has crazy blue eyes that change shade all the time, from indigo to aquamarine to lilac. I can’t tell you the rest though without giving the story away! Ella has a birthmark on her knee linked to a past life, and the baddie Sebastian has really tiny teeth. I don’t know why I gave him really tiny teeth, but it helps paint a very distinct impression of him.

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

Diversity is really important to me as both a writer and a daughter of an immigrant. Ella is half English and half Spanish – I wanted to show what that’s like, to come from two cultures and never fitting in either. The series is mainly set in London, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, so I wanted the characters to reflect that. Her best friend Mai Li is Vietnamese (her ethnicity isn’t part of the plot, why should it be?) and as the series progresses there are gay characters, mixed race relationships, various religions, young people struggling with abilities which they see as a disabilities and a very feminist outlook. I only wrote about things I felt reflected my own voice experiences.
For me, having a variety of diverse characters in the series wasn’t about ticking boxes or making sure everyone was ‘covered’ – it was about representing society as I know it. None of the plots centre around the fact a character is gay or from a certain country, it’s just who they are. End of.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

There are some really fantastic bloggers out there and I’m so lucky to get to work with many of them. The Glass House is a brilliant online magazine that features a book review page. I also love watching @JessikahHope and @FrancinaSimone on YouTube, and Jenni @jennieLy is an award-winning blogger I enjoy following too.

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

I always wanted to be a traditionally published author since I was a little girl. Call me old fashioned, but my dream was to walk into a bookshop and see my work on the shelves – and for that self-publishing wasn’t going to work. Obviously, the “big agent and big top 5 publisher” route is what most writers aim for, but I had a very long and complicated journey with my series so when I was offered a contract with BHC Press (a small US press) I realised they were perfect for me and the series. Not only do they champion me every step of the way, but because I’m not a small cog in a large machine we work as a team on cover design, marketing, PR, events and ideas. I wouldn’t get that with bigger houses. They are really lovely too. Who knows what the future may bring - maybe I’ll end up with a mix of everything - but for now my choices have worked out great!

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

Three reasons.
1. It helps other readers with similar tastes know what they will and won’t like.
2. It helps sell books as it contributes towards promotional hype.
3. The nice reviews give us writers something to shout about - so if you’re a blogger you get an author-endorsed push too.

I don’t often read reviews, good or bad, as I find they create judgemental voices in my head making me second-guess what to write. So to stay true to me and my ideas, I leave the reviews for the readers. Saying that though, I do have friends who read my reviews. So if a remark comes up often it can help me with future books – like adding trigger warnings. I can’t speak for other writers, but I write for my readers…so I care what they think!

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

I would like to discuss YA and adult readers. There is a lot of talk in the book community about how YA should just be for young readers, and we need to stop adding sex, violence and young characters to older storylines – but there’s another side who says adults WANT to read books with protagonists in their teens and early twenties. Unfortunately there’s no genre or category for that.
My publisher is currently using YA+ as a description of my series as most of the five star reviews have been from adults (themes of lost love and finding your soul mate is obviously going to resonate more with older readers, looking back on past choices, than a fifteen year old).
So my question is: how do we separate YA teen and coming of age stories, with stories with older teen protagonists but with tougher plots/themes adults will enjoy too?
After all, Catcher in the Rye, Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies are all YA books. And there’s nothing childish or innocent about them!

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

THE PATH KEEPER ~ two covers #bookcover #coverlove - ebook/paperback and the special edition hardback ~ N J Simmonds' Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Blurb for The Path Keeper

THE PATH KEEPER


Book 1 of The Indigo Chronicles

(28 May 2019)

What if our lives were mapped out before birth? Does anyone have the power to change their destiny?

Ella hates London. She misses her old life in Spain and is struggling to get over her past—until she meets Zac. He’s always loved her but isn’t meant to be part of her story. Not this time. Not ever. Little does she know that his secret is the one thing that will tear them apart and force her to live in a world that no longer makes sense. A world full of danger, lies and magic. The Path Keeper is a passionate tale of first loves, second chances and the invisible threads that bind us. Can love ever be stronger than fate? *The special edition white hardcover contains the never-seen-before short story “One Day I’ll Fly Away.” Exclusively available in the hardcover edition.

Read chapter one of The Path Keeper online
https://www.bhcpress.com/Books_Simmonds_Path_Keeper.html
For a list of retailers, or to get FREE digital goodies, just ask
N J Simmonds' Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome ~Photo credit: Jeremy Standley


Author Bio

N J Simmonds, author of YA fantasy romance series The Indigo Chronicles, began her career in glossy magazines. She went on to manage marketing campaigns for big brands before becoming a freelance writer and consultant. In 2015 she co-founded online magazine The Glass House Girls and has since contributed to many publications. She writes books filled with fearless teens, magic and adventure, and also lectures on storytelling and self branding. Originally from North London, with Spanish parentage, N J lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two daughters.

Links

Website: http://njsimmonds.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NjsimmondsAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NJSimmondsTPK
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/njsimmonds_author
Netgalley: https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/156429



The Path Keeper (The Indigo Chronicles Book 1) by N J Simmonds

Monday, June 10, 2019

Somehow, about Lunch Tables: Farewell from Karis

I'm bad at making decisions. Bad at changing my life, doing things that will be hard for me (even if they're good for someone else), putting the wheels in motion to alter my reality.

Sometimes though, you know in your gut it's the right choice. And as hard as it is, you have to just dive in, no matter how breath-stealingly cold the water is, and hope you're able to swim rather than sinking.

Yes, friends, this probably terrible metaphor means one thing: I've made the decision to leave the Operation Awesome team.

I applied to be an OA blogger last February because my friend, Jaime Olin (remember her? She's awesome!) was on the team and has posted there was a vacancy. At the time I was unemployed, depressed, bored, anxious for more writing projects to help me fill the void in my life.

And I was excited to be a part of something, to not be alone anymore on this writing journey. I think that's the thing about being a writer, even a blogger, that can be hardest, if you're just starting out or unsure how to navigate all the churning waters of Twitter, Instagram, BookTube...it's the eternal question of where do I belong? who will I sit with at lunch?

Operation Awesome was my lunch table for a little over a year. I wasn't always the best lunch-table-person: I got distracted by a new job, and then I got depressed (really, really depressed), but I tried. And I found that my lunch table partners are good partners. They were always there to support me, to tell me it was okay if I fell off the grid for a bit; that it's okay to be depressed; that it's okay to not be perfect.

These are the truths I tell others; sometimes it's nice to hear them myself.

Oh man, as far as blog posts go, this one has been all over the place!

I guess what I want to really say is this: sometimes we do things not forever, but for a period. We join a group blog and we hope it'll last forever but circumstances change and it wouldn't be fair to the rest of the team, so it's in everyone's best interests to leave. And decision-making might be so hard for me, but in the end it was realizing I was letting the team down that pushed me to say, "okay, it's time to go."

And the other is: put yourself out there. If you feel scared or alone or lost in the big wide world of writing, find a team. It helps.

Love y'all, can't wait to see where things go with the rest of the OA crew!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Can I sign queries with my preferred name?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm an agender writer currently preparing to seek representation for my novels. My preferred name is different from my legal name. How do I sign my query letters? Would it be unprofessional to put something like (Preferred name: such and such) after my legal name? I don't know how to navigate the situation and would appreciate any advice!


Yours,

Two Names

Dear Two Names,

I really don't feel like you need to use your legal name at the query stage.  You're beginning a relationship here, and you want to relate to the agent the way you feel the most comfortable, as the person you see yourself as.  Until you're signing any legal paperwork, there is no reason not to use the  name you use in your everyday life.  It's not a pen name you are using, its the name you identify yourself with.

When you get an agent, you're starting a relationship with someone who is going to work very closely with you, hopefully for a very long time.  Why would you start a relationship with a name you don't use?

If you are an #ownvoices author and want to mention this in your query because it's relevant to the story you are pitching, you could reference that this is your preferred name, not your legal name, and the reason why, but don't feel like you have to.  It's something you can talk to the agent about if you get to the point of having "the call".  And even then, only if you feel comfortable doing so.

The only time you need to use your legal name in this circumstance is when you are signing legal documents.  And by the time you get to that point, your agent will already know you by your preferred name, and will continue to identify with you using that name.

Hope that helps!  And good luck with the agent search.

X O'Abby




Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Sarah Scheerger's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Scheerger


1- Have you ever shared your journal with a group of people?

Ummm. No. My journal would be way too private and I would be way too shy. In fact… I wrote my first two books under a pen name (my first and middle) because I was too shy to tell my friends and family that I wrote a book! Isn’t that ridiculous? And then I wound up telling them anyway, and I had to laugh at myself for not just telling them right from the start!
Interestingly, my cousin and her two best friends do share a journal. They have three going at once and swap weekly. I think that's amazing.

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

Seek feedback from others but keep your vision in mind as you revise.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I’ve loved to write for as long as I can remember. For my day job, I’m a school-based counselor, and I often talk to my students about coping skills. Honestly, writing has been a coping skill for me at various times in my life. I gravitated toward writing during times in my life that were more challenging. I began writing more seriously after a loss in my life—and also when I began reading children’s books to my own kids.

4- Your website shows your "real" debut book... The Bisnots. Have others shared such treasures with you, or do you hope they will?

Yes! I have seen such treasures from students. I encourage everyone to write/write/write… just get the creative juices flowing. That’s how it all starts.

5- 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 @sarahscheerger , and a huge shout out to @Jarrett_Lerner @HillaryHomzie @Author_Cisneros @apalessandri @ginamarieperry !

6- Would you share some pages of your book with us?

Interior illustrations credit to Gina Perry.
Sarah Scheerger's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome ~ Interior illustrations credit to Gina PerrySarah Scheerger's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome ~ Interior illustrations credit to Gina Perry
Sarah Scheerger's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome ~ Interior illustrations credit to Gina PerrySarah Scheerger's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome ~ Interior illustrations credit to Gina Perry

7- You already wrote for young readers and teens. What motivated you to debut with Middle-Grade readers?

In my writing process, my inspiration comes from the story idea itself, not from the target audience. . . so when I get an idea my next step is to think about what format would be most ideal to tell that story. In this case, my motivation was my memory of my 4th-grade teacher. As I pulled together images and memories, I realized the best way to tell his story was through the eyes/voice of middle-grade characters. PLUS I just love how 4th/5th-grade teachers use literature to spark classroom discussions.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

Time. There are SO many amazing books I want to read, so my wish list of books is long (and my time is limited). I’d love to read pretty much all newly released fiction in the kidlit category. Sadly, I don’t get to read as many as I’d like. But if I have a chunk of time that’s a motivator. I do find myself gravitating to realistic fiction (probably because that’s what I like to write.) Cover and title are huge pulls too. I think coming up with the perfect title is SO hard! I’m impressed when a title grabs me in right away.

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!

There are too many to choose from!!!!! But if I had to pick one…
Author name: @RJPalacio
Title: Wonder
Love because: I love this book because of the transformative impact it has had on classrooms across the country. When I walk into 4th, 5th and 6th-grade classrooms, I see images and messages from this book. It has inspired tolerance, awareness, empathy, perspective-taking, and kindness… plus of course, there’s beautiful writing, engaging characters, and believable plot. (Am I gushing?)


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

Hmmm. You mean besides my kids? (Just kidding) I have to say that the twitter love that has most inspired me has been from my colleague Ernesto Cisneros @Author_Cisneros He’s a teacher and an author as well—his debut Efrén-Divided releases in 2020. He’s said the kindest things about my story. I think because he’s a teacher who works with students close in age to those in my story, he sees the potential classroom application here. I went back through some of my tweets from him and here’s one from February 10th that really touched me. He wrote, “2019 is bringing many highly anticipated books, but none more so than this one. A perfect blend of heart, humor, social-awareness, AND entertainment.” I cannot wait to read Ernesto’s debut when it releases!

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

I want my readers to feel empathy, compassion, and empowerment. In my opinion, kids don’t get credit for how amazing they are. They’re insightful, compassionate, innovative, and they will be the adults of tomorrow. I want them to know they can make a difference today! (Just take a peek at the news and you’ll see that happening already. I am so inspired by our children.)
In terms of scenes—I hope they’re empowered by the scene at the School Board meeting. I hope they’re angered by the scene in which Kayley calls Blake a mean name. I hope they’re saddened by the scene when Blake is evicted. And most of all, I hope they can feel with Cecilia as she copes with the fear that mother could be deported. There are so many children living in our country today whose parents are at risk of deportation. I hope readers feel empathy throughout.

12- What is your favorite kind of candy?

I do love candy. Most candy, to be truthful. I particularly like those hard See's lollipops (Butterscotch or Cafe Latte). I also love anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I hope that readers will feel connected and feel empathy for the characters. I hope they’ll see evidence of how (in the same situation) different people can have very different experiences. I hope they hold onto a few special ideas. The following are examples:
  • You get to choose the kind of person you want to be.
  • Every voice matters.
  • The “frog effect”—the idea that every action can create ripples in the world (positive or negative). This wording is based on the more well-known concept of the butterfly effect.


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

I love Kermit’s smile on the cover. Don’t you just want to hug him?

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

Love this question! I wanted the characters in Operation Frog Effect to represent the beautiful and diverse faces I see every day in California classrooms. For that reason, my characters are all diverse. Here’s the range of diverse backgrounds/qualities you’ll see in my characters: Latina, Taiwanese, African American, Caucasian, different learning styles (learning disability), Jewish, financial instability, parental depression, and adoption. I had many authenticity readers (at least fifteen) for this project, to help me make sure that I was representing each character authentically. My editor was so helpful and careful—we wanted to ensure we were doing our best to accurately represent everyone.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I like many, and I’m so grateful for all the bloggers putting energy into spreading the book love around…. Including Mr. Schu http://mrschureads.blogspot.com/ and https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/

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

While the traditional publishing route is full of rejections and much waiting time, it’s the route for me. I try to be (mostly) at peace with the idea that not every manuscript of mine will sell. I try to be patient with the time it takes to sell a book. I don’t feel that I have the expertise or marketing skills necessary for successful self-publishing, and I do love the editorial support from a traditional company. I really appreciate the editorial guidance and vision. (The traditional route can be discouraging for sure, but often well worth the wait!)

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

Reviews help spread the word about books, as do “shout outs” and shares on social media. There are so many books published every year, and each book is vying for attention. If you like a book, write a review or share some social media love to help spread the word.

19- Do you have one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Do you remember that special teacher from your childhood? The one who noticed you? Or made you feel like what you had to say mattered? Okay… now that you’re picturing that special teacher, what would you like to say to him/her if you could reach out to the teacher today?
OPERATION FROG EFFECT ~ Sarah Scheerger's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

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

Check out Operation Frog Effect’s section in Random House’s “School Stories Educator Guide”. (This may be helpful to the teachers out there.)
https://images.randomhouse.com/promo_image/9780525644125_5528.pdf

Click on this link to listen to an excerpt from the 9 actors cast as characters in the audiobook:
https://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/blog/meet-cast-operation-frog-effect-exclusive-audio-clips

Sarah Scheerger's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome
Bio:
Sarah Scheerger is a clinical social worker with “at-promise” youth, helping them figure out who they are and who they want to be. She writes picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels. Sarah loves reading, watching movies, dancing around the house in socks and pajamas, as well as spending time with her family and friends. OPERATION FROG EFFECT is her middle-grade debut.

Click on this link to read an excerpt:
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/575577/operation-frog-effect-by-sarah-scheerger/9780525644125/

Social Media Links:

Website:
http://www.sarahlynnbooks.com

Twitter account:
@sarahscheerger

Facebook account:
https://www.facebook.com/sarahlynnscheergerbooks


Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Scheerger

Friday, May 31, 2019

May 2019 Pass Or Pages Entry #5


Time for the Pass Or Pages feedback reveals! We're so thankful to our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries. Shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week. You are awesome!

Entry #5: NOTORIOUS

Query:

The California gold-rush is on and it seems like everyone is running a game. While the wealthy build mansions high on the seven hills, the desperate trek to the Women's Benevolent Society for aid. The ones with legal troubles come to see the notary, Vespertine Clement. She never expected Mrs. Adler, the founder of the society, to summon her with a crisis. [KU1] A mob discovered a fallen woman the society aided [KU2] kneeling over the corpse of a man, blood smeared on her mouth and hands. The  society's patrons are threating to withhold their donations. [KU3] [AT1]

Mrs. Adler gives Vespertine an edict to prove the woman innocent. [KU4] Accompanied by the amiably corrupt Sergeant Cuinn, she sets out to solve the murder. It may be unsolvable. The coroner refuses to cooperate with a woman. The accused cannot speak. Her uncle just wants her to settle down and blend in. If she fails, she'll lose her position and forced into a lifetime of professional domesticity.

Vesper tine believes [KU5] someone poisoned the victim before his throat was slit. With a chemistry text from her uncle’s bookshop, and some glass tubing borrowed from the dye makers, she arranges a test of her theory, with an audience, in the police station. 

The test is a complete failure. 

Caught in a covert battle between slavers and abolitionists, [KU6] she only has four days to discover what happened that night to save the Society from ruin and a woman from the gallows. [KU7]

NOTORIOUS is a completed 76,000 word adult historical mystery with series potential. Readers who liked The Agency mysteries by Y.S. Lee or the Sally Lockhart books by Philip Pullman [AT2] should enjoy this book.

**********

Katelyn's Notes: 
[KU1] Vespertine never expecting to be summoned isn’t as strong as the murder. Cut right to the chase.
[KU2] This sentence felt a little bogged down in details and I had to reread to see if I was understanding the implications clearly.
[KU3] Does this mean the Society will go under without them? Make the stakes clearer. I feel like in this paragraph I’m being told what happens but not what it clearly means for the stakes and plot.
[KU4] This brought me back to the unclear stakes in the first paragraph. Is the woman being accused of murder outright and considered guilty, or do most still think she is innocent like Mrs. Adler does? And does Mrs. Adler truly think she is innocent or is she just trying to save the Society?
[KU5] I don’t know enough about the death or investigation to make sense of all the details about it or her theory yet. All I need to know is that her attempt to prove the woman’s innocence fails. This is another case of getting bogged down in descriptive details.
[KU6] Slavers and abolitions came out of nowhere and it’s not clear how they fit into the rest of the story.
[KU7] This is what I wanted spelled out earlier, that the Society would be ruined and the woman could hang for the murder. Lead in with these stakes instead of waiting until the very end to spell them out since this is what hooked me.


Ann's Notes: 
[AT1] Nice premise.
[AT2] Watch that comp titles won’t seem dated.



First 250 words:

Vespertine examined the jagged handwriting on the visiting card once again for some hidden meaning. She ran her gloved fingers over the engraving and sniffed the paper. A delicate dab of her tongue [KU1] on one corner revealed nothing but the gritty pounce used to blot the wet ink. To all outward appearances, it was an announcement that Mrs. Adler would receive visitors this afternoon delicately inscribed with a border of acanthus leaves. In reality, it was a summons for an employee to attend her superior. What she could not find on the card was why she was summoned. She returned the note to its envelope, removed her glasses, and leaned back in the horsehair-stuffed seat of the hansom cab. [KU2]

The gold strike at Sutter's Mill five years ago had lifted the Adlers to wealth beyond Croesus. While the desperate might call on Vespertine, the notary of the Women's Benevolent Society, Mrs. Adler had resources enough to prosper without her. [KU3] The afternoon wind freshened and Vespertine pulled her wrap tight against her best dress. The cab slowed then tilted as it ascended Telegraph Hill.

**********

Katelyn's Notes: 
[KU1] This feels a little strange for her to be using her tongue on the card.
[KU2] Being summoned isn’t carrying enough tension for me since it’s normal for an employee to answer to their boss. It makes me wonder why she is so suspicious.
[KU3] Made me wonder why she has Vespertine if she doesn’t need her.


Ann's Notes: N/A


Results:


Katelyn: PASS 
Ann: PASS