Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dear O'Abby... Scratch that. Dear Readers.

Dear Readers,

O'Abby here.  This week I need your advice because I'm the one with a writing problem I can't solve. So really hope some of you out there might have some thoughts on what I should do.

I can't finish my book.

This is not something that's ever happened to me before.  Usually I know the ending, or something that resembles an ending right at the start of writing a book.  Even if the first scene I write is somewhere toward the middle of the story.  I even usually write the ending early on in the drafting process so I have somewhere to aim for.

I should add I'm not a plotter or outliner.  Writing the ending is about as much plotting as I do, usually.  But for some reason, I left this unfinished manuscript sitting on my hard drive without an ending.  And now I've filled in all the rest of the missing bits, but still can't figure out how to end it.

To be honest, even if I had written an ending back then, it probably wouldn't fit with the story I've written now.  But on the other hand, maybe if the ending had been there, I wouldn't have written the middle parts the way they've ended up.

The problem I have, is that I've taken everything away from my MC.  Everything he has worked toward throughout the book, everything he believed he needed.  And I don't feel like I can end the book with him at such a low place.  There needs to be some spark of hope for him.  I don't need a happy ending, just something that offers some chance that he might actually manage to find happiness or fulfillment in the future.

There are two women who have been a part of his life over the course of the book and I feel like they need to be part of the ending.  But I can't figure out how to write them in without it feeling forced.  The first woman disappears from the story after about chapter 5 or 6 and is only mentioned again once or twice, but I feel like she's the one who could show my MC a way forward.  But I'm not sure how to re-introduce her in a way that feels natural or organic.

The other woman is more consistently a part of the story, but I don't think my MC would go to her at this point in the story.  Not without someone or something else urging him to.  Things between them have become weird for a number of reasons.

So I'm asking for advice.  What do you do if you can't finish a story?  Are there techniques you use?  Do you put it away and leave it for a few weeks?  Let someone else read it and offer suggestions?

I'm asking for your advice.  Apart from not being able to end it, I love this story and my stupidly messed up characters.  And I want to give them the ending they deserve.  Even if it isn't the ending my MC thinks he wants...

X O'Abby

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Claire Bartlett's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

We Rule the Night by Claire Bartlett

1- What's the best part about being in Copenhagen?

My bicycle. I can go anywhere on my bike, and it usually takes less time than taking the bus. I love living in a metropolitan place where I don’t have to rely on a car or a bus schedule to get around (though the public transportation here is wonderful too!).

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

Writing is a learning process, even when you’re published. Always be ready to learn - it’s exciting and fun to grow!

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

My mom would say my third grade teacher, who gave us lots of writing assignments and really encouraged me to get started with writing. But I remember reading Jane Yolen’s Dream Weaver when I was young, and thinking, “I can do that! I want to do that!” and, well…I never lost that optimistic arrogance.

4- Would you share a fun story about Fellini and Figaro? #CatLovers

We adopted Fellini and his brother Figaro just a couple of months ago from the cat shelter, so we’re still collecting stories. But what I’ve found so far is that Fellini loves drinking shower water. Whenever we go into the bathroom he races in there, just in case we’re going to take a bath! He hides himself behind the shower curtain, because he doesn’t like to get his fur wet, and then his little head pokes from under the curtain to lap up water from the shower floor. Figaro loves to play, and sometimes when we don’t play with him enough he uses his brother’s tail as a toy. Fellini doesn’t always love that. For the most part the brothers get along, though.

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

My handle is @bartlebett, and I love my writer friends! I have to shout out the incredibly supportive @KellyCoon106. Kelly’s the author of Gravemaidens and an all around wonderful human! I also have to shout out a couple of agent sibs - Kai Doore @KA_Doore, author of The Perfect Assassin and a great source of inspiration for getting that writing done! Marissa Lingen has literally decades of experience in the business and is a fantastic well of expertise if you’re looking for someone who has great advice. Follow @MarissaLingen.

6- Would you share a picture with us of something that's iconic Copenhagen?

So I'm a terrible photographer, but here's a favorite spot of mine in Copenhagen. It's behind the university, and a slightly quieter space than the bustling town center around it. The tower in the background is Vor Frues Kirke, the Church of Our Lady. It's probably Copenhagen's most major church.

7- You're rocking some awesome rainbow hair on your website. What prompted you to do that, is it difficult to maintain all the colors, and will you do it like that again?

First of all, thank you! I love my rainbow hair. I got really into looking at how other people dyed their hair, and then a friend who lives in Budapest said she wanted to do it too! I flew to Budapest, we spent the weekend together and we went to her trusted hairdresser to get the job done. Since then I’ve dyed it myself, and I have to redo it every six weeks or so. It isn’t really difficult to maintain, just time consuming. So I’m living it up while I can.

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

The back blurb. If I love the way the book sounds, I’ll usually see if it’s available at the Copenhagen library (or, if I’m at my favorite bookstore, I’ll ask my friend who works there what she thinks of it). If I can’t get it from the library and I really like the sound of it, I’ll see if I can nab it as an ebook or audiobook (or if my bookstore friend recommends it I’ll pick it up). There are a few authors who are an auto-buy for me, and most of those I started reading at the library!

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: Susanna Clarke doesn’t have a twitter handle!
Title: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
Love because: this book combines history, magic, the napoleonic wars, Austenian commentary on high society, drama and danger. I love it so much. It’s a great historical fantasy.

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

I’ve had so many great messages, tweets and instagram photos from so many wonderful people! But my sister read one of the first iterations of We Rule the Night, and demanded I tell her EVERYTHING that will ever happen in that world from now until forever. She’s a great writer too but she couldn’t be trusted to give my book a good edit. She kept skipping ahead, laughing uproariously, gasping, and generally doing exactly the thing that all authors want fans to do. She’s wonderful. She seems to love the one-liners the most.

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

I hope readers will take away a sense of outrage and hope. Outrage that the sexism prevalent in the book happened, and is still happening today, but hope that we can change things by supporting each other and overturning stereotypes.

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

I love @beaconbookbox! They are adorable, they have great photos and they’re a small business run by a young adult! I’m super impressed by them and I loved working with them in April.

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

I hope readers will feel stronger - like they can do anything. I hope they’ll appreciate the friends they have, and keep the bonds of friendship strong. A lot of YA focuses on romantic relationships as the main relationship of a story, and while I love a good romance, I always wanted to read a YA novel that reflected my reality, that emphasized the love between friends and didn’t pay so much attention to romance.

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

That’s an easy one: Revna is a double below-knee amputee, and her prosthetic legs are made of living metal. Her father made them for her before the start of the novel, and she naturally has a special relationship with them.

15- What's your favorite book with a diverse main character? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Right now my favorite book with a diverse main character is Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard. It’s sort of a police procedural, except the detective is the Aztec High Priest of the dead and the magic is bloody and brilliant.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I really appreciate the Book Bratz, and I think they do great reviews. But there are so many wonderful bloggers out there, so thank you to each and every one of you!

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

I genuinely think that others can see the flaws in my books better than I can. Editors don’t curb the genius of authors, they help it to shine! That was why I decided to try my hand at traditional publishing. My editor understood what I wanted to say with We Rule the Night and how I was failing to say it, and she’s made not just this book, but my writing in general better. I love you @hallietibbetts!

Also, I always wanted to see my book in my local bookstore. That helps with choosing traditional publishing.

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

There are two reasons. First of all, it helps authors! If you liked a book and think an author should keep writing, write a review. It doesn’t have to be a five-star review (even a one-star review can help!).

Readers should also review books so that other readers know what to expect. I used to read Goodreads reviews every single time I thought about picking up a book. Both the high praise reviews and the negative reviews told me something about the book and helped me decide whether the book was for me.

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 wrote this novel to celebrate strong female friendships in YA. Do your readers think there’s a dearth of friendship stories, and what are their favorite YA friendship stories?

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

Claire Bartlett is a writer based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She loves history, fantasy, her enchanted forest apartment and her cats. Find her on twitter, instagram or facebook @bartlebett, or get news and extras from her website: .

Read part of We Rule the Night:

Colonel Koslen’s office smelled of sweat, earth and oil. Papers lay scattered across his desk, the aftermath of a bureaucratic war. Koslen stood behind the desk, clenching and unclenching his ham hands as Linné came in. The colonel cut an impressive figure, tall and broad and with biceps the size of Linné’s head. Tannov and their friend Dostorov had joked that before the war, Koslen was a goatherd who liked the smell of goats better than the smell of women. Linné preferred to mock his glorious mustache, waxed to a curl. It twitched whenever he spoke, whenever he sighed, whenever he lost his temper, or whenever it seemed a particularly difficult thought was pushing itself through the sludge of his brain. After any ordinary disciplinary action, Linné would return to the barracks with her finger over her upper lip, wiggling it back and forth as she described Koslen’s temper.

No one would laugh at the joke now. They’d laugh at her.

Koslen studied her round face, her dark hair, her thin body, searching out the little touches that branded her as female. Linné pushed her shoulders back, daring him to say something.

They stood that way for several long moments. Then he sighed. “Please, take a seat.” He gestured toward his chair, the nice chair. “Would you like some tea?”

Linné’s palms began to burn. For three years he’d treated her like a soldier. And suddenly she was a girl. A miss. She fought to keep her face neutral. If she took his offer, she’d be relegated to the status of a woman, an outsider, unfit to serve. If she refused, he could claim she was incapable of following orders.

Koslen went over to a silver samovar, squeezed onto a side table next to the company’s hulking radio. Wasting precious metal had become a serious offense around two years ago, when the heads of the Union had realized just how bad the war was about to get. But officers always managed to squirrel something nice away.

Linné slid into the hard chair reserved for the colonel’s subordinates, sitting rigid with her wrists propped on the desk. “Thank you, sir.”

Koslen stopped midstep toward the chair she’d taken for herself. Then he turned and went to his own as though he’d meant to all along. He placed one cup of pale golden tea in front of her and took a sip from the other.

“You’ve turned our little regiment quite upside down, miss.” His tone was all exaggerated courtesy. A gentleman could never shout at a lady.

“Have I, sir?”

Koslen frowned. The mustache twitched as he inhaled, slowly and deliberately. He could smell the brandy on her. She should’ve left it alone.

He was silent for a moment, and behind his eyes she saw some sort of argument raging. Then he seemed to make up his mind. “I’m not going to waste time. If you have no shame for your actions, perhaps you should consider how you have endangered the men of your company.”

Linné pressed her lips together. Arguing got a soldier latrine duty, or graveside duty, or watches for the witching hours.

Perhaps he mistook her silence for contrition. “War is simply not women’s work, miss,” he said.

Though apparently it is goatherds’ work, Linné thought. She couldn’t help herself. She imagined her next words running along an iron beam, strong and steady. If her voice shook, Koslen might think she was close to tears instead of holding back her rage. “I have served faithfully, sir. I have been loyal to the Union and the regiment.”

“You have distracted the men,” Koslen replied. “They cannot spend their time at the front worrying for your safety. Don’t you understand? You don’t just endanger their lives by coming here. You endanger their minds, their ability to think.”

Cowards. She recognized the lie, even if Koslen didn’t. The men were afraid that she could no longer do her job. They were afraid that she’d never been able to do her job. That every mistake she’d ever made was because she was a girl, and not because she was human.

We Rule the Night by Claire Bartlett

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.

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.
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?



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? #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.


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?


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

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?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

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

Dear OAbby,

I read about this: somewhere and was wondering, how much grit does a first time writer need?


# 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'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? #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


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
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.



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,'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!