Monday, September 30, 2019

Introducing First 50 Word Critiques!

Happy Monday all you awesome OA readers!  We're gonna try something new.
First 50 word critiques!

Here's how we envision this working, but if you have suggestions for changes, please let us know!

Step one – we post someone's first 50 words [approximately, don't stop in the middle of a sentence].

Step two – folks like you, yes YOU, leave a critique in the comments.  Be nice, but be honest.  [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.]  What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words?  Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre?  Does it have a hook?  Does it pull you into the story?  Do you want to read more?  Why or why not?  Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Step three – anyone who leaves a comment can email us their own first 50 words IN THAT CATEGORY/GENRE.

Step four – depending on how many emails we get, we'll post 1-2 each Monday over the next several Mondays for critiques.

Step five – once we either run out of entries OR we decide to move on [haven't figured this part out yet], we'll post a new category/genre for the following series.  If you've posted a nice/honest/helpful critique on at least TWO previous entries, we'll consider your first 50 words for inclusion.  This means that even if you don't write in the category/genre that's currently on the blog, you still need to comment if you might want to submit an entry in the future.

Our first category/genre is middle grade [MG] [because that's what I write, and I'm using my first 50 words to start this].  Since this is our first round, you obviously can't comment on at least two previous entries.  So if you write MG and you want to submit your first 50 words for critique, you MUST comment and critique my first 50 in the comment section of THIS blog post.  For future rounds, you'll need to post a critique on at least TWO previous entries before you'll be able to submit.  [And don't wait until the day you email us and go back and post a critique on an entry from several months ago.  We'll notice.]  This will only work if everyone plays fair.

Then send us an email formatted as follows [if this idea works out, we'll probably make a google form, but for now let's do it this way]:

The subject of the email MUST say “First 50 Critique – MG”.  Otherwise it will get lost in all the emails we receive.

The FIRST sentence in your email must state “The following 50 words are my own work and I give OA permission to post it on the OA blog for the life of the blog.”

Next, write “I commented on the entries posted on [date] and [date] as [your online ID].”

Then copy/paste your first 50 words into the email.

We will NOT include your name or other identifying information in the post.  Just your first 50 words.

So here's how the email will look for this first round:

Subject:  First 50 Critique – MG

The following 50 words are my own work and I give OA permission to post it on the OA blog for the life of the blog.

I commented on the entry posted on Monday September 30, 2019 as [your online ID].

My first 50 words:

[Copy/paste your first 50 words here.]

UPDATE: Two of the First 50 Critique entries we received by email last week were misdirected and finally forwarded to us by the person who accidentally received them [hi Michelle, and thanks!]  We're not entirely sure how that happened, but we want to try to prevent that happening in the future.  So, when you send us an entry by email, please be sure to open a brand new email and address it to our gmail account at OperationAwesome6.  Click here for more info on contacting us.  Also, the entry window will probably close on a Wednesday, and we will send a confirming email to everyone who enters.  If you do NOT receive a confirming email by that following Friday, please contact us by Twitter DM and we'll track it down and/or give you an alternate email address to use.

That's it!  Entries will be accepted until end of day on Wednesday October 2.  So leave a comment on THIS blog post on my first 50 words [see below] and send your MG entries now!

Reminder:  Be nice, but be honest.  [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.]  What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words?  Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre?  Does it have a hook?  Does it pull you into the story?  Do you want to read more?  Why or why not?  Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

First 50 Words - MG Entry #1:

Her father never gave her a name. "You're nothing but a smudge," he'd said, with extra emphasis on the word smudge. “A smudge does not have a name.”

He'd flashed the thought at her with so much force, she staggered back as if he'd slapped her.

That was the day, several years ago, when she'd asked to go to school.

Friday, September 27, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry #5

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agent Kelly Peterson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!



DINOSAUR YARD is 44,000-word middle grade contemporary fantasy. It’s Daniel José Older’s Dactyl Hill Squad[KP1] meets Ken Liu’s short story Literomancer[KP2] in its celebration of intergenerational and cross-cultural friendships.[KP3]

Everything is connected. At least according to 12-year-old Maggie Roy it is. If she can avoid the sidewalk cracks, her parents will live to a hundred. If she can count to twenty before passing that street sign, she’ll get a good mark on the math test. Deep down, she knows this isn’t real, but she can’t help herself.[KP4]

The only person who really understands her is her best friend and next-door neighbour, Mr. Macklemore. When he moves away to a special retirement residence, Maggie is lost without him. Her only company is the life-size dinosaur figurines in the yard across the road. Things get worse when she learns he has Alzheimer’s and isn’t getting better.

After half a lonely summer in the quiet stretch of farmland where she lives, a Korean family moves into his old house. Maggie is overjoyed to meet Priscilla. They are the same age and immediately bond over an enormous love for food and a curiosity for each other’s cultures. As their friendship blooms, something strange happens…

The dinosaurs across the road begin to move. In the stillness of night, the triceratops, the stegosaurus, the T-Rex, they all come to life. It’s all connected.

One morning, Maggie wakes to a horrible surprise: the baby diplodocus has disappeared. Soon after, she learns Mr. Macklemore’s condition has worsened. This is no coincidence. As more dinosaurs go missing, he grows more ill.

The girls must race against time to solve the mystery before it’s too late… before all the dinosaurs have vanished, and Mr. Macklemore is lost to his disease. And the link could be something neither girl could ever have imagined.[KP5]

Kelly's comments:
[KP2] Quotation marks for short story titles.
[KP3] Taking a quick look, this is a LONG query. This should be shortened to 2-3 paragraphs.
[KP4] Cut most of this, as it’s not really needed. Let your character speak through your voice ,and then we can find all the nuances of her through reading.
[KP5] Can you combine these three paragraphs? There’s a lot here that seems able to be condensed into one paragraph rather than spreading into three.

First 250

The diplodocus shadow stretched out over the sea of wheat as the sun dipped closer to the horizon. Its already long neck extended impossibly until no more rays remained for the illusion.[KP6]

For yet another day, Maggie sat on the gentle slope of the roof outside her bedroom window, and the dark forms[KP7] crawled along the ground.

In the winter, when it was too cold for the roof, she pressed her nose against frosty glass and monitored the progression of shadows creeping over snow-laden fields, sleeping crops below.

Rays of orange fire pierced the sky. Maggie retreated inside her bedroom and retrieved her logbook to draw one more line next to the series of hashes. Eight hundred and ninety lines preceded today's. That made two years, five months and nine days.

"Maggie." Her father's voice soared up the stairs. "Dinner is ready!"

She thumped down to the kitchen. Out the window beside the dining table sat the empty neighbour's house. For months, the For Sale sign hung on rusty hinges, creaking in the wind. For months, Maggie hoped for a new best friend to move in next door. For months, Maggie knew deep down that no one could ever replace Mr. Macklemore.[KP8]

That evening, the sign brandished a new word–

"Did you see they finally sold the old Macklemore place?" Maggie's father interrupted her thoughts as he reached across the table for the casserole. He slopped a pile of hot, creamy rice and vegetables down.[KP9]

Kelly's comments:
Expository and not needed. Start with your character and their goals!
[KP7] Forms? Shadows? People? Magical shadowy beasts?
[KP8] This is good, but it doesn’t give us quite enough of an insight as to who Maggie is and what she WANTS. What are her emotions like? You’re simply stating that she hoped for someone to move in, but not how she FEELS about the house being abandoned. I’d like to see you dive more into emotions here and enable your readers to feel for her and connect with her on a deeper level.
[KP9] I actually kind of love your voice and this premise. I’m not huge on dinosaurs, but I’m enjoying the quirkiness of all of this! I’m going to say Pages!

Results:  Pages! When you’re ready, can you send me your query, synopsis, and first 50 pages (attached) to Just make sure to put “Submission” somewhere in the email title!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry #4

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agent Kelly Peterson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!



Twelve-year-olds Danvis and Danvic, aka “The Twins”, have an unfortunate curse. The brothers are cursed to share one identity. They do everything the same, including thinking and speaking in unison.[KP1]

The Twins think they’re nothing more than the village’s outcasts until they learn they’re the descendants of the Water Keepers—twin legendary heroes who had powers over the element water.

This discovery of their ancestry catches the attention of Princess Salina. She offers them friendship with one request: get the Water Scroll—the source that gave their ancestors their powers—so they can become the next Water Keepers. Her father’s advisor, Forvayin, is plotting to take over the throne, and she needs a hero to stop him.[KP2]

The Twins agree to her request. Not only will they get friends, but they’ll get to be more than just cursed freaks. They could be heroes.[KP3] However, the Scroll has been locked away for centuries, requiring four keys scattered across the kingdom. The journey to collect the keys won’t be easy, and when Forvayin himself finds out about Salina’s plan, he’ll do anything to make sure The Twins are dead.

WATER SCROLL is a completed 60,000-word MG fantasy novel for kids who love adventure stories such as SEVEN WONDERS and NEVERMORE.

Kelly's comments:
Does there need to be two of them if they do everything exactly the same and think the same?
[KP2] I would put this before Salina’s request or with it so that it doesn’t seem like she’s just coming to them or helping them for no reason.
[KP3] Where is their agency within this query? Why do they make this decision? They can’t be Water Keepers without the princess telling them what to do and working for her?

First 250

Liberty Day was the worst holiday ever.

The Twins lay flat on their stomachs, taking up all the floor space in their treehouse home. For the past five—maybe ten—minutes, they tried rereading the same paragraph from their book Legends of The Land of Waves. The scent of freshly baked pastries seeped through the walls as cheery voices slipped through the shutters. Everyone from Little Pond Village crowded the road below their tree; the Liberty Day Festival had begun.

Of course, The Twins weren’t invited.

It wasn’t the village’s fault for hating them. They were cursed to have no separate identities after all.[KP4] Rarely a foot apart, they did everything the same, including speaking and thinking in unison. The fact they’d suddenly showed up with no parents two years ago hadn’t help matters manners either.

Yes, The Twins were freaks.

Suddenly, a rock knocked the shutters open; The Twins flinched. A wave of baked pastries flooded into the treehouse, and they dug their nails into the floorboards, their shoulders tensing up. A second rock flew inside, and a voice yelled, “Haha! Got you freaks!”[KP5]

Yep, happy Liberty Day.

The Twins ran their hands through their hair, shaking out a few auburn strands. Maybe a different book would distract them. Together they both reached for the stack of books in the corner, pulled the top one, and flipped it open. They couldn’t help moving in sync—thanks to their curse.[KP6]

Another rock zoomed inside.[KP7]

Kelly's comments:
[KP4] Slightly awkward phrasing here.
[KP5] Confused why people throwing baked pastries through a window would make them dig their nails into the floorboards?
[KP6] If they move perfectly in sync, does that mean there’s two separate bookshelves and the same books on each bookshelf so that they can move perfectly together, or do they have to break their in sync movements in order to both pull the same book from the shelf and one of them has to flip the pages? Reading one book together would give them separate movements, even just by the slightest degree, while having two copies of each book and reading it at the same time would allow them to have exact simultaneous movements.
[KP7] Your premise just isn’t pulling me in enough with stakes and agency, so I’m going to have to pass.

Results:  Pass

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry #3

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agent Kelly Peterson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry #3:  I AM NOBODY


Max Haze, an introverted middle-schooler, is changed forever when he is struck by lightning. The rare incident gives him the ability to teleport anywhere in the world. Max's best and only friend, Amy, thinks Max’s super power is the coolest thing to ever happen, a dream come true, and his chance to be a hero.

Max is less thrilled. Unable to think past the potential danger of getting hurt or being wanted by the government, Max gives in to his anxiety, and decides to hide his power and makes Amy swear to keep his ability a secret.[KP1] The only problem is, someone already knows. When they[KP2] come forward with a threat against Amy, Max must decide to maintain his anonymity or protect his friend. Either way, his life will never be the same.[KP3]

I AM NOBODY[KP4] is a middle-grade magical magic-realism fantasy novel, complete at 39,000 words and will appeal to fans of "Aru Shah and the End of Time"[KP5] by Roshani Chokshi and "Wing & Claw"[KP6] by Linda Sue Park. It is a stand alone in a potential series and features racially diverse and LGBTQ+ characters.

I've been an English teacher in a public school (grades 6-8) for eight years. I am very familiar with my target audience; children between 10-15 years old, including boys, girls, and LGBTQ+ individuals. As an avid reader of MG and YA novels, I believe I AM NOBODY would be a strong addition to the current MG market. Thank you for your consideration!

Kelly's comments:
[KP1] Bit of a run-on sentence here. I’d suggest condensing this sentence and breaking it up a bit so that your reader can follow effortlessly.
[KP2] I would make it apparent that the “they” in this sentence refers to the person who knows his secret. Also, I’m a bit confused as to how they would know Amy was his friend.
[KP3] Contemplating whether you actually need this sentence or not. I’m a big fan of ending on the stakes and leaving your audience with that, but at the same time, I kind of like this sentence as a final hitter.
[KP4] Love this title!
[KP5] Italicized, not quoted. =)
[KP6] Italicized. =)

First 250

A string of electricity bridged the gap between Max Haze's finger and the microwave before he felt its sting. The morning walk down the carpeted stairs in his socks generated enough static to shock himself nearly every morning. No matter how many times it happened, he was always surprised. He wasn't sure if he genuinely forgot or looked forward to the morning jolt. As he pondered the thought, Max's mom tousled his short, brown hair.

"There aren't any secrets of the universe in the microwave dear."

Max choked a laugh and pulled out his sandwich. "Gee thanks Mom, I didn't notice." He watched her pour a thermos full of coffee and adjust her blue scrubs.

Looking back towards him, she commented, "I heard from Dad this morning He has to fly directly to Houston for the next week, so it'll be you and me." Her auburn hair was pulled into a bun and her green eyes looked glossy. Her extra long nurse shifts were often busy and chaotic. Max's father was in pharmaceutical sales, so he did quite a bit of traveling. He was incredibly charismatic and fun which made him a great salesman and dad, so they missed him quite a bit while he was gone on long trips.[KP7]

Max smiled, "That's a bummer.[KP8] What's your schedule like this week?"

"We're short staffed so who knows."[KP9]

Kelly's comments:
[KP7] Little bit of expository detail here. Do we have to know all of this right now? We’re learning a lot just from their conversation.
[KP8] If he’s sad about it, why is he smiling?
[KP9] I love the stakes in this manuscript, but I’m not much of a superhero and powers type of person, so I’m going to unfortunately pass.

Results:  Pass

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry #2

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agent Kelly Peterson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!



Dear Agent

I am seeking representation for my 38,500-word debut MG Fairy Tale / Magic Realism novel with fairytale influences, Octavia Bloom and the Missing Key.[KP1]

At almost 10, thank you very much, Octavia Bloom is desperate for adventure, unaware that it awaits tantalisingly close behind a tiny, magical, golden door - if only she could find the key that opens it.

What started out as an ordinary day finds Octavia Bloom playing hide and seek in the forbidden attic of her family's ancestral Castle, Octavia Bloom's. The day swiftly turns extraordinary with the discovery of a hidden Fairy Door. Setting out to investigate she finds that her family are hiding not one, but two life-changing secrets. Along with her sister, cousins and a talking mouse she embarks on a dangerous quest, taking her through the miniature door and into Fairy Land. Needing to locate a magical flower in order to make a cure to save her secret twin brother Otto,[KP2] she enlists the help of the good Fairy Queen and an ensemble of magical characters. The evil fairy Queen puts many obstacles in their way,[KP3] but they are victorious in obtaining the flower and restoring Otto.[KP4] The adventure takes a sinister turn as Octavia’s cousin Beatrice is kidnapped by the evil fairy Queen and a battle ensues to rescue her.[KP5] They are triumphant and return home together as a family.

Thank you for your time and consideration.[KP6]

Kelly's comments:
[KP1] Title should be all capitalized since it’s an unpublished work.
[KP2] Otto should probably be introduced into the query earlier so that the agent/editor has an idea this is happening and why she would NEED to find the flower. How does it cure him? Why does he need to be cured in the first place? How did she find out she has a secret twin brother?
[KP3] Can you be specific here? What does she conquer?
[KP4] Claiming this now and restoring Otto gets rid of your stakes before the story is actually resolved. I’m wondering if this might not be better off saving restoring Otto for last, and having her cousin getting kidnapped WHILE they’re searching for the flower.
[KP5] What are your stakes here? What would happen if they don’t rescue her? What would happen if they don’t find a cure for Otto? Your query shouldn’t give away your ending and it should leave a reader on their toes with the stakes and really wanting to know what happens.
[KP6] Insert a biography paragraph here.

First 250

Dust hung in the air, suspended in the golden light slanting across the faded floorboards. From behind an old, striped couch a swatch of yellow could be seen. Crouched down, quiet as a mouse, Octavia Bloom was holding her breath,[KP7] which was very difficult to do; the dust floating like glitter in the old attic was tickling her nose. Laughter bubbled up inside her, which she quickly suppressed by biting down on her lip, it wouldn’t do to make a noise now and give away her position. If she kept quiet, she was certain to win this round of hide and seek, her silly sister and annoying cousins wouldn't think to look up here.[KP8] The attic at Grandmother's House was strictly forbidden.

Well, it was actually a Castle, rather than a House, cut into the craggy cliffs with the thundering waves below, you could[KP9] imagine great battles being fought and terrifying pirates having many adventures here. Octavia wasn't afraid though, she was nearly ten thank you very much, she often slipped up to the attic when no one was looking to have adventures of her own. She brought her handmade dolls and handfuls of moss and played fairy land in the patch of weak sunlight, nibbling on crumbly biscuits snatched from the kitchen. Many idyllic hours had passed here when Grandmother was having her afternoon nap. Leaving her sister and cousins to their giggling chatter, Octavia would sneak off, always looking for adventure.[KP10][KP11]

Kelly's comments:
[KP7] This makes a lot stronger of a beginning! I’d suggest cutting the first two sentences out completely
[KP8] These adjectives are making it seem as if Octavia really doesn’t like her sister or her cousins, and it’s putting them down. What type of person is Octavia? Does she enjoy time with her family? Is she positive and a leader, or is she negative and a pessimist? These adjectives are making me think she leans quite a bit negative.
[KP9] Don’t address the reader and break the 4th wall! =) This is a bit of subjective bias, but I can’t stand when I’m addressed because it pulls me out of the story and reminds me that I’m in reality.
[KP10] So this is a bit of an info dump and I’d prefer to stay with Octavia in the moment for a while, sprinkling the first chapter with these types of tidbits. When you go into this type of expository detail, as well, it puts your voice into a higher reader level and making it sound as if you’re switching over to an adult manuscript and voice, as opposed to staying with the middle grade
[KP11] Overall, there’s a lot of grammar inconsistencies and mistakes in here that are making it a bit hard to read. Because this also sounds very similar in a way to The Chronicles of Narnia, I’m going to have to pass. Best of luck!

Results:  Pass

Monday, September 23, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry #1

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agent Kelly Peterson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry #1:  THE WAY IT IS, 1959


I would like to submit my middle grade historical manuscript, THE WAY IT IS, 1959, with embedded poetry and complete at 41,000 words for your consideration.[KP1]

PATSY DANCY, a ten-year-old white girl, hates change with a purple passion and despises how grownups never answer her many questions. Living on the cusp of social changes in Charlotte, North Carolina, Patsy struggles with peer relationships and a school bully, with discord inside her family, and with new racial attitudes in her southern culture as traditional roles are redefined. She searches for answers and her place in this world of racial segregation, family secrets, and white gloves worn to church on Sunday. I believe the novel could have series potential.[KP2]

Patsy is a “noticer”. She questions the inequitable treatment of “Coloreds” and wonders why the rules change from whites to Negroes. To her, the rules should be the same for all, no matter the skin color. If Skeeter from THE HELP was in fifth grade, she would be Patsy.[KP3]  Patsy’s opinion in a world of segregation proves unpopular with her white friends, even her best friend, even her teacher. The person at the top of her trust list is Viola, the colored maid next door.[KP4]

For a girl who hates change, this year’s a doozy and throws Patsy into a tizzy. She is targeted by the most notorious bully in the school—"Wayne the Tormentor”.  She fears a showdown will be unavoidable. She fills a red journal, hidden under her bed, with her questions and poems. Patsy’s poems appear at the end of chapters. As 1959 ends, Patsy worries about what 1960 will bring. She feels as if a storm is brewing and heading her way—an unstoppable storm of change. Tarnation, what can she do but grow through it?[KP5] That’s just the way it is.[KP6][KP7][KP8]

Kelly's comments:
[KP1] This would be a great place to put in a personalization! “Because of your love of MG Historical novels with a southern feel, I would like to submit…”
[KP2] This paragraph should introduce your character and what their drive is. What do they want? What are their goals? Who are the main characters?
[KP3] The difference I see here between The Help and your query is that your query is about the young, white girl version of Skeeter, whereas The Help is focused on people of color and the stories that they have to share. It’s focused on raising their voices up to be heard, rightly so. How does THE WAY IT IS lift the people of color in your story and their voices up to be heard and help to influence everyone’s lives for the better?
[KP4] This paragraph should introduce the turning point of the story and what happens to get in the way of those goals or interrupt the story and change her goals. What is the inciting incident to catalyze the story?
[KP5] You need a bio paragraph after this. =)
[KP6] This paragraph should be the decisions made in lieu of the inciting incident and how that creates the stakes. What is she going to do about the incident and her obstacles? What stakes will she face if she succeeds or fails?
[KP7] Saying it’s just the way it is diminishes her agency to be able to do anything throughout the story. If she accepted life as it was and had no goals and nothing to stand up for, then there wouldn’t be any story. What are the stakes here? What does she want? What will happen if she doesn’t succeed?
[KP8] Make sure this isn’t giving away the ending of your novel. What are the stakes? Leave the agent/editor wanting to read more in order to find out what happens. Don’t give them the resolution.

First 250

“Patsy, stop that infernal daydreaming!” The words whooshed out of Mother like air from a punctured bicycle tire. Then after a sharp inhale, “Don’t you drop that sheet in the dirt!”

“Yes, ma’am.” I grabbed the wet sheet corner and sniffed the unmistakable scent of Clorox. Mother would have a hissy-fit for sure if I let go of the sheet.

Boy Howdy, Mother always interrupted my daydreams. I conjured up another as I held up the sheet. Winter. Snow. I was tramping through mounds of fresh snow wearing show shoes woven from cane.  I sank to my knees with each step…[KP9]

“Patsy?” Mother called my name with an arched eyebrow.

Dang it! Busted again. How does she do it?[KP10] I swiped away a sweat mustache with the back of my free hand, then licked the salt from my lips. Lordy mordy.[KP11] Mother thinks August and chores go together like bread and mayonnaise.

Perspiration dripped onto the lenses of my glasses. Do they make glasses with windshield wipers? I pushed the mother-of-pearl frames up for the umpteenth time and wished I’d pulled my hair into a ponytail this morning. It hung thick around my neck and shoulders like the Cowardly Lion’s mane in The Wizard of Oz.

The sweet scent of honeysuckle drifted towards me from branches draped over the fence behind the clothesline. Daddy’ll be home in a few hours, I thought,[KP12] and pressed my lips together. That familiar, uneasy-butterfly-feeling began in the pit of my stomach again.[KP13]

Kelly's comments:
[KP9] Does this daydream need to be here? It might be easier to connect us with your main character a bit more before diving into the depths of her mind and imagination, as that essentially means you have to build two worlds (reality and a dream world) as opposed to one. 
[KP10] Busted doing what? Is she simply day dreaming and moving through the motions, or does she stop day moving/working while she day dreams? I think some physicality before this to clarify what her mother sees when she calls Patsy out would be helpful in order to visualize the scene.
[KP11] There’s a lot of older slang in these first few paragraphs. I’d suggest introducing slang a bit more slowly, as your readers won’t know what they mean until you use them a few times in very purposeful locations. It also forces your reader to pull away from your manuscript when you put sayings and words in there that they can’t necessarily connect with or use quick context clues to grasp.
[KP12] Thoughts are usually italicized.
[KP13] Unfortunately, I’m just not connecting with the voice and premise, so I’m going to have to pass.

Results:  Pass

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Ooops! I wrote a sequel.

Dear O'Abby,

I've had this idea for a book for a long time now.  I even tried to write this book about ten years ago, but ended up writing a YA about the characters as teenagers instead because that backstory seemed really important to understand.  Now I feel like I'm finally ready to write the book I intended to write originally.  The YA was never published, but as I set out to write the adult book about these characters 15 years on, I'm wondering if it would make sense to publish that first book? The new one is, essentially, a sequel.... Or should I keep it as a marketing tool for when the new book comes out?  I could give it away as a free gift with purchase or something.

Any advice on this will be gratefully accepted.



Dear Unwritten,

It sounds to me like the YA you wrote was something you did for yourself as a way to discover your characters and their personalities and voices, and how they came to be the people they are today.  I don't know if that book has a compelling storyline or arc or any of those things, so I can't really tell you if it's something you should publish, or give away.  That's something only you (and maybe your agent, if you have one) can decide.

It sounds like the new book is going to be an adult book, so I'm not certain a YA about the same characters will even be a useful marketing tool because the target audiences for the two categories are different.  It is certainly an interesting idea.  I've never heard of something like that being done before, but that doesn't mean it hasn't.

To be honest, I think you're putting the cart before the horse a little here because it sounds like you haven't even written the new book yet.  And writing a new book takes time.  So I don't think this is something you need to be worrying or even thinking about at this stage.  Just get your butt in chair and write that new book.  When it's done, that's when you can start thinking about the marketing and how this earlier book could be used to sell the new one.  Or if it even can be.

Do any of our readers have any input on this one? Have you ever seen a YA book used as a marketing tool for an adult sequel?

X O'Abby

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Avery Ames' Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Cambiare by Avery Ames

1- Are you doing #NaNoWriMo this year, and if so, how are you preparing for it?

Yes! This will be my fourteenth NaNoWriMo! I've managed to win every year so far. This November, I'll be drafting the Cambiare sequel, so I have a pretty solid idea of the plot already. But even with an outline, NaNoWriMo always involves a few left turns, and I'm ready to think on my feet if I need to.

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

Develop a routine and stick to it. Whether that's 15 minutes in the morning before the kids wake up, or 30 minutes twice a week between classes. Most of my work is written on lunch breaks.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I think my answer is similar to a lot of writers; I've always been a storyteller. I love the magic of creating something from nothing, of using stories to connect to other people. I started even before I could recognize letters on a page, making up my own fairy tales for my parents. Eventually, I moved on to writing it all down, and I just never stopped.

4- What is your favorite beverage?

I'm a huge tea fanatic. I love making my own blends, including some inspired by my books. My current favorite is an almond blackberry earl grey. I also enjoy going to antique malls to find old teapots and teacups.

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

You can find me at @AveryAmes, and I'd love to point people in the direction of my online writing buddies @DCMcNaughton and @ReneeSue.

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

I recently got to participate in my local library's Local Author Day event, which acted as a small debut even though my official on-sale date isn't until September 17th!

7- What's one positive and one negative about your protagonist and antagonist?

Cirelle, my protagonist, is incredibly tenacious. When she puts her mind to something, she won't back down. Her major setback is the bipolar disorder that causes her emotional stress and sometimes leads to rash decisions. The antagonist, Adaleth, is quite clever but is very xenophobic.

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

Compelling characters. That's the long and short of it. I can become invested in just about any genre or any plot, as long as the characters are intriguing and complex. Although enthusiastic word-of-mouth from friends will motivate me to read anything.

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: @RobinHobb
Title: Assassin's Apprentice
Love because: Hobb does character-driven fantasy unbelievably well. I've reread her books many times and I still feel emotionally invested in her characters every single time.

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

@naominspired on Twitter has been so amazingly supportive of my book from the moment she read it, and has sent me some lovely compliments on the romantic tension in the novel.

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 to evoke the sense of atmosphere and wonder that all great fairy tales capture. I also love to torment readers with a frustratingly slow-burn romantic rollercoaster. I hope the scenes where Cirelle struggles with her intrusive thoughts will strike an emotional chord with readers, both those who are fighting their own battles with mental illness, and those who are not.

12 - What is your favorite thing about autumn?

I love the smell of fall. Fallen leaves and rain, apples and pumpkin and spice. It's so warm and cozy. As soon as I catch a whiff of an autumn-themed candle, it makes me want to curl up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea and a good book.

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

I wrote a book I would have needed to read in the worst parts of my life. A story about a how someone with mental illness can still be a hero, and how a woman can still be strong and powerful without knowing how to fight.

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

Ellian, Cirelle's faerie employer, has eyes that act as mood rings, changing color alongside his emotions. He also doesn't like to sit still and fidgets with his hands often.

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

As well as sharing my bipolar II, Cirelle is unashamedly bisexual. Her love interest, Ellian, is pan. Most of the other characters fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella as well, though some of those will be detailed further in later books.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I watch most of my book reviews on Youtube, and Thoughts on Tomes is a personal favorite

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

I chose to self-publish because this story seemed better-suited to it. Cambiare toes the line between adult and new adult, and the romantic fairy tale atmosphere was a good fit in the indie market. Also, I loved getting to choose my cover artist and editor as well as setting my own deadlines and schedule. It's not easy, though, and you definitely have to be self-motivated!

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

Reviews are so crucial ; think of the last time you took a chance on an unknown author with 2 book reviews. Then think of the last time you impulse-bought a book because it had dozens (or hundreds) of reviews with a decent rating. Plus, in the end, getting more people to read the books you love just means more people to made headcanons and geek out with.

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?

My book is heavily influenced by fairy tales and folklore; what's your favorite classic or modern fairy tale and why?

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


I'm a graphic designer currently residing in the United States. A lifelong lover of lush fantasy, I write novels that toe the line between glittery and dark, for lovers of fairy tales and everything gothic. When not writing, I can be found playing video games, creating replica costumes, making candles, or concocting new tea blends.

To find out more about me and my books, check out or follow me on Twitter @AveryAmes


Cambiare comes out on September 17th, 2019!

Barnes & Noble:
CAMBIARE Avery Ames's Debut Author Spotlight


Everyone knows the fae are dangerous. Beautiful, capricious creatures, they are as enticing as they are forbidden.

When Princess Cirelle’s brother falls deathly ill, there’s only one sure way to save him: a secret bargain with one of the fae folk. The cost? A year of servitude in the mystical faerie realm. But Cirelle’s new fae master, Ellian, holds secrets even deadlier than his charming smile.

Caught in the glittering and blood-soaked world of the fae, the hedonistic Unseelie Court kindles something new—something dark and delicious—within Cirelle, even as it twists Ellian ever more inhuman. Can Cirelle unravel Ellian’s mysteries and survive long enough to return home before she succumbs to the decadent depravity of the fae?

Cambiare by Avery Ames

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

What to do when an agent wants to schedule The Call

Hello all! As you may have seen on Twitter, I am now represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis!

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When I was trying to navigate The Call, I really struggled to find info on the internet, so I thought I’d write today about what all happened once an agent contacted me to schedule The Call and everything that came after.

Getting the First "The Call" Email

I was first contacted by an agent who had my full manuscript after they’d had it for about three weeks. I'd never gotten that far in the query process before - with my previous manuscript, I did have an agent email me to get more info but they said "no" once I told them my plan - so it was an exciting but also really scary time! I didn't want to mess it up.

The agent and I set up a time to chat on the phone. I did some research about the agent, looking up other works they'd represented and such, and also researched what to ask. I recommend the list of questions found here. I also found that it was helpful to ask how the agent would prefer to work on the manuscript (Google Drive, Word, etc.) because I have strong feelings about Google Drive. But that's just me.

When we got on the phone, the agent told me what they enjoyed about my manuscript and why they wanted to represent it. They even gave me some suggested edits, which I was surprised about; however, I'm glad they did that because some of the other agents I spoke with also gave me notes, and it made the choice easier once I had an idea of their editorial styles. At the end of the call, the agent offered to represent me, at which point I basically lost the ability to speak. It’s a good thing my partner was in the room to remind me to say, “thank you!”

Informing Other Agents

The agent gave me two weeks to respond to the offer. As soon as I’d gotten myself together, I wrote up an email with the subject line "Offer of Representation" for the other agents who had my full. It went something like this:
Dear [Agent],  
I am writing to inform you that I have received an offer of representation. I have until [deadline] to respond, so if you are also interested, could you please inform me by [earlier date]? Thank you.
Almost every agent who had the full manuscript responded within a day or so and let me know that they would read the manuscript as soon as possible. (Side note: using the phrase "Offer of Representation" in the subject line is a good idea because agents may do a search in their inbox for this phrase. If they use QueryManager, it's easy to send a notification that you have received an offer.) I asked agents to reply by a week before the deadline in case they also wanted to schedule phone calls, which seemed like a fair amount of time to me.

I also reached out to the agents I had queried but hadn’t heard back from yet. Here’s the gist of what I wrote to them:
Dear [Agent],
I am writing to inform you that I have received an offer of representation. I know you might not have seen my query yet, but if you are interested in my work, I can give you until [earlier date] with the full manuscript. Otherwise, I understand that this is a short turnaround and don’t want to rush you.
About half of the agents who had my query replied. Most of them replied with variations on “thanks, but no thanks,” although a couple requested the full manuscript. I never heard back from the remaining few. It was definitely worth letting them know!

In the end, I scheduled a few phone calls and had some awesome conversations with several agents. Like I said above, almost everyone offered feedback (one agent declined and told me that she'd only give me notes if I signed with her, which was fair). I definitely recommend asking if you can see a copy of the agency agreement before you sign, which agents may or may not agree to do. It's not that any of the agreements were sketchy, but they were all so different with respect to the agent's and my responsibilities.

Making a Decision

The hardest part by far was making a decision. I'm a people-pleaser, so it was really hard to tell anyone "no," even though I obviously couldn't sign with multiple agents at multiple agencies. I chose Christa in the end because I felt like she understood what I wanted to accomplish with this manuscript and her interests were well-aligned with where I saw my writing career going. That's not to say that the other agents weren't also a good fit for me, it's just that I thought Christa was the best fit.

Once I'd signed with Christa, I had to do the tough thing: send an email to the other agents who had offered representation to let them know. Here's what I said:
Dear [Agent],
Thank you for reading [manuscript] and for taking the time to chat with me. While I enjoyed talking with you about [manuscript] and your vision for it, I've decided to work with another agent. Thanks again, and I wish you all the best!
So now here I am! I'm working with Christa on my revisions, and hopefully you'll hear from me again soon with more good news!

For now, this is my life

If you have questions or you'd like more info, drop a comment below! You might also check out the O'Abby post from February of this year on this topic :)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Do you know where your local indie bookseller is located?

Is there even ONE indie bookseller near you?
The Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, 2016
I visited, typed my zip code, and selected “within 10 miles”.  It came up with THREE bookstores within 10 miles of my home.  The first two are university bookstores.

That leaves one.  It's 8.1 miles from me, which isn't that far.  It specializes in mystery and suspense books.  Hours are Tuesday thru Saturday.  I don't write in that genre, but I do read it.  I think I'll visit in the next few weeks.

Expanding the search to 20 miles [I used the 50 mile selection and stopped reading when I reached stores 20 miles away] results in 22 bookstores.  In addition to the one 8.1 miles from me are the following:

One is open two days a week on weekends.
One is open four days a week.
Two are open six days a week.
One is open seven days a week.

The rest are university bookstores or online only.

Honestly, six brick-and-mortar bookstores within 20 miles of me was more than I expected in today's market.  Most indicate on their website that they specialize in a certain genre.  Apparently, a generalized bookstore is no longer available in my area.

Expanding out to 30 miles yields several more options, but I do live 30 miles from Los Angeles, so that's probably why.  The Last Bookstore looked particularly intriguing and HUGE,
altho driving to downtown Los Angeles to visit it is not something I'd like to do that often.  But wow it looks like a great bookstore.
Maybe I'll check it out the next time I go to the downtown courthouse.

Where is your local indie bookstore located?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Are Contests Worth My Time?

Dear O'Abby,

There seem to be so many writing contests out there and I was wondering if it's actually worth entering any of them.  No offense meant.  I know Operation Awesome runs its own contest, but that's kind of what made me ask the question.  Does anyone ever actually get an agent or a publishing contract out of these contests?  



Dear Contestable,

It's really up to you whether you want to enter contests.  They're not compulsory for any writer, but they are a lot of fun, and a really good way to meet other writers who might end up becoming beta readers or critique partners.

And yes, people do sometimes get agents or publishing contracts through these contests.  I actually got both.  In the same week.  But I ended up passing on the publishing contract in favor of working with the agent in the end.  That was one crazy week, I'm telling you!

But even if you don't get picked by the agent or editor judge, entering contests is a good way to see how your work stacks up against other peoples'.  Most contests ask the judges to leave feedback, so even if you don't win, you have notes from a professional on your query and/or first page.  And you can use those notes to help polish both up, and often the rest of your MS too.

Sometimes readers of the blog are also asked to leave feedback which means you don't just get one opinion, but many.  If something about one particular piece of feedback resonates strongly, you can reach out to that person and thank them.  You may even become friends with that person or decide to work together as critique partners or beta readers.  I met several of my very favorite writing buddies this way and we are still critiquing each other more than 10 years on.

But if you're not interested in entering contests, it's not going to be the end of your writing career.  You can still query traditionally, and your chances are probably no better or worse than if you'd entered the contest.

Good luck, which ever way you decide to go!  And if you're thinking of entering our Pass or Pages, you have about a day left to do it.

X O'Abby

Monday, September 9, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Entry Form

We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for Middle Grade, any genre! Any entry not falling under that umbrella will be deleted. The entry window closes on Friday, September 13 at 6 p.m. Eastern.

The form will not allow you to show italics or other formatting, but if your entry is chosen you'll have time to let us know of any formatting you need fixed.

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Do I Need to Punish My Characters?

Dear O'Abby,

I've written a book in which several characters do things that are morally questionable and I was wondering if, for readers to feel satisfied, they need to suffer in some way as a result.  I know that in times past, it was unusual for a character to break social mores without some kind of retribution, but in this modern day and age, is this still the case?



Dear Ambiguous,

This is a very interesting question.  You're right that anti-social behavior is usually punished in fiction, even if it's a subtle punishment.  I think even if this is not entirely intentional, it's human nature to try and set things right and make sure people who break rules, even unspoken ones, pay for their sins.

It even has a name: poetic justice.

Fairy tales are built on this principle, as are fables.  Good behavior is rewarded; bad is punished.  So I guess it's no surprise that this continues through most fiction.  It's the basis of our storytelling tradition.

But as for it needing to be this way to be satisfying, I'm not entirely sure.  I'm struggling to think of a book in which a character does something terrible or immoral in which they don't receive some kind of punishment for it - usually something that forces them to change their ways.  Or kills them.

I guess it really depends on which character is breaking society's code and for what reason. If they have good, well-drawn reasons for their behavior, they may be able to get away from the situation without punishment.  It would need to be a really good reason though...  Something like murdering a pedophile to save a child.  Doing something evil for the greater good is an acceptable trope.  Especially if there's a healthy dose of guilt and remorse around the event.

Yet, if the anti-social act is sexual, rather than violent, I think it might take more than guilt and remorse to redeem the character.  For some reason we seem to consider anti-social violent acts more acceptable than sexual ones.

But let's take this to the readers.  Can a book be satisfying if anti-social behavior isn't punished?  Can you name a book where this happens?  I'm now kind of fascinated by this question and will be looking to answer it with every book I read from now on.  And probably every one I write too!

X O'Abby

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Jennifer Camiccia's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Memory Keeper by Jennifer Camicciak

1- How did you spend your summer?

I spent my summer taking care of my new rescue puppy, Nova.

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

Once you finish a project, let it sit for a couple of weeks. Seeing it with fresh eyes can make all the difference when you're revising.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I've always daydreamed and made up stories, even before I could read or write. So, in that sense, I would say being read to from an early age ignited my imagination and made me want to make up my own stories.

4- Did you make any of the food you found on Pinterest over the summer? If so, what and how did it go?

I made gluten and dairy-free banana bread and it turned out, surprisingly, delicious!

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

@jencamiccia, @_CoryLeonardo, @leeseray, @LindsayWrites.

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book at a fun summer spot?

I had the amazing experience to go to the first SoCal NerdCamp this summer. I also had my first book signing!

7- Would you please tell us more about winning the #goldenheart?

I won the Golden Heart for a Young Adult book, LISTEN. Later we changed the title to BIRDY'S SONG. It's a story about a teenage girl who's devotion to her younger sister helps her overcome crippling stage fright in order to perform in a singing competition that could be the answer to their future. The RWA conference was also my first conference and I loved every minute of it. It's still weird to see a picture of myself accepting the award because I have no memory of walking to the stage.

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

Lately, it's been to support my fellow debut authors. I love reading all the ARCs! There is so much talent in this year's group. I, also, admit that I'm a sucker for a beautiful cover :)

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!

I have a hard time picking a favorite book. I love so many. One of my favorites is The Princess Bride. I found that book hilarious when I was a teenager, and it still holds up. A recent favorite is Sadie by Courtney Summers.
Author name:Courtney Summers @courtney_s
Title: Sadie
Love because: I loved it because she takes this impossibly difficult, complicated story and dares you to look away from it. You can't. It's a heartbreaking look at how easy it is for a girl to disappear. The podcast aspect really makes the book hard to put down. It was not an easy or comfortable book to read, but it was brilliant.

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
Is it cheesy to say, my daughter? She is the first person to read all my books, and she is my biggest cheerleader. I'd say she loves the mystery aspect of the book 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 it touches readers and makes them value the people in their lives. I love the last story in the book--the one Lulu writes for her baby brother.

12- What's your favorite autumn dessert?

My favorite autumn dessert is Dutch Apple pie. My grandmother taught my mom how to make the perfect crust, and she passed it down to me. It’s one of those foods where every bite brings back so many treasured memories.

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

I hope it will help readers to be honest with their families. Sometimes we think that keeping secrets is protecting our family. But, sometimes, it's really distancing them from us. Obviously, every family is unique but I do believe honesty, if at all possible, is best.

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

My main character has a Highly Superior Biographical Memory. This is the kind of memory where a person remembers everything about their own lives.

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

My favorite diverse middle-grade book right now is Lisa Moore Ramee's A Good Kind Of Trouble

16- What's your favorite song and why?

My favorite song is The Story by Brandi Carlile. It makes me cry every time I hear it.

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

I've always dreamed of being traditionally published. It took a lot of hard work and patience—it definitely did not happen overnight. But the whole experience has been educational and, I'd even say, life-changing.

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

If a reader enjoyed a book then reviewing it is really one of the best ways to thank the writer. It helps other readers to find the book and helps it to stand out in the marketplace.

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?

I'd love to know other people's favorite book review bloggers

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

All Lulu Carter wants is to be seen. But her parents are lost in their own worlds, and Lulu has learned the hard way that having something as rare as HSAM—the ability to remember almost every single moment in her life—won’t make you popular in school.

At least Lulu has Gram, who knows the truth about Lulu’s memory and loves her all the more for it. But Gram has started becoming absentminded, and the more lost she gets, the more she depends on Lulu…until Lulu realizes her memory holds the very key to fixing Gram’s forgetfulness. Once Lulu learns that trauma can cause amnesia, all she needs to do to cure Gram is hunt down that one painful moment in Gram’s life.

With her friends Olivia and Max, Lulu digs into Gram’s mysterious past. But they soon realize some secrets should stay buried, and Lulu wonders if she ever knew Gram at all. It’s up to Lulu to uncover the truth before the only person who truly sees her slips away.

The Memory Keeper by Jennifer Camicciak

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

September 2019 Pass or Pages Agent Panel

Meet the agent who is going to critique your Middle Grade entries!

Image result for kelly peterson mswl

Kelly Peterson

Kelly Peterson is a West Chester University graduate with a B.S.Ed in English and Literature. She worked as a Junior Literary Agent for two years before moving to Rees Literary Agency, continuing to champion her authors and the manuscripts she loves. Kelly seeks manuscripts in various genres within Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult age ranges. In Middle Grade, she loves fantasy, sci-fi, and contemporary that touches on tough issues for young readers. Her Young Adult preferences vary from contemporary to high fantasy, sci-fi (not the space kind) to paranormal (all the ghost stories, please!), and historical all the way back to rom-coms. Kelly is proud to continue to represent Adult manuscripts in romance, fantasy, and sci-fi. She is very interested in representing authors with marginalized own voices stories, witty and unique characters, pirates, witches, and dark fantasies.

Category/Genre: Middle Grade, any genre!

Details for September 2019 Pass or Pages:

Entry starts: Monday, September 9 at 6 a.m. Eastern
Ends: Friday, September 13 at 6 p.m. Eastern
Category/Genre: Middle Grade, any genre
How To Enter: Fill out the entry form on the contest post when it goes live
What Is Required: Your query (NO BIO or personalization for agents), your first 250 words, a complete and polished MS

You can also read more about the rules here.

The winning entries with agent commentary will be posted on Operation Awesome the week of September 23, one entry each day. If you aren't comfortable with having your entry (which will be anonymous) shared on the blog, please don't enter Pass or Pages!

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments or tweet @OpAwesome6. Also, feel free to chat about the contest with fellow participants on the hashtag #PassOrPages.