Monday, December 9, 2019

First 50 Critique - YA/Fantasy #2

For all the details of how this works, click here.  We are NOT accepting entries this week.  But if you want to enter when we DO open the entry period, you must post a critique on at least TWO previous entries before you'll be able to submit.

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.

Here's this week's entry.

First 50 Words - YA/Fantasy/Speculative #2

I hope I’ll survive high school without being hauled off by the government’s newest taskforce. The vice-principal whispered to the cafeteria guy about today’s raid. Only one state away. I wonder if someone else I know was taken? As if the first day of high school isn’t stressful enough. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Next Step...

Welcome to December!

Hopefully those of you who were doing NaNo achieved your goals. And even if you didn’t get to 50K, you still have more written than you did on 31 October which is a win  in my book! I surprised myself and managed just under 60K in November.  My book isn’t finished yet, but I figure I have only another 15K or so to go.  I aim to be done by Christmas so I can enjoy my summer holiday (I live in New Zealand so Christmas is in summer) without that hanging over me.

Last week O’Abby had a question about what to do once you’ve finished your NaNo book and I outlined some ideas about revising that first draft (here) and promised we’d talk about the next step this week.  So here goes.

Once your book is revised and polished and your readers can’t find any more major flaws, you need to decide what publishing route is right for you and your book.

If you want to be traditionally published by one of the big publishing houses you will need to find a literary agent as most of these publishers don’t accept manuscripts directly from authors.  There are numerous agents and they all represent different types of books.  Research is required to ensure you find one who will be able to sell your book.  There are a number of websites that can help you with your search.  I would recommend Query Tracker as a useful tool, and for finding our what different agents are actively looking for, MSWL.  Once you’ve found a few agents you’re interested in, I suggest you follow them on Twitter to see what they’re looking for and if you think you might be compatible with them.  Picking the wrong agent is worse than having no agent, so it’s worth going in with as much knowledge as possible.

If you are someone who likes control, self-publishing might be the best route for you.  It’s hard work because every part of the process is in your hands, from editing, to cover design to publicity and marketing.  But you get a bigger cut of the royalties from your sales and you can control when your book releases, what it looks like, the price and pretty much everything else about the process.  I would suggest though, you get a professional editor and cover designer to work with you because readers notice shoddy editing, and a bad cover gives the wrong first impression of your book and can kill sales.

The third option is to publish with a small press.  Most of these do not require an agent to submit so you can contact them directly.  There are a large number of small presses, some which specialize in particular genres and styles and others that publish a broad range of titles.  Some are digital only which means if you’ve always dreamed of having your book on library and bookshop shelves, this isn’t going to happen.  Like everything else, I suggest you do your research before sending your manuscript to any small press.  Some have very limited distribution channels and some only do print copies on demand.  Some have hidden costs associated with their services and should be treated with care.  You will also likely have to drive the bulk of marketing and publicity yourself as most small presses have limited resources for this.

How you publish is not a decision to take lightly, so take your time and do your research.  And don't get discouraged by rejections.  They are just part of the process and while they sting, they won't kill you.  After a while you will be able to brush them off like any other annoyance, as crazy as that might sound to you now.  I can say that because I've had close to 300 rejections in my writing career, and expect more each and every time I send a new manuscript out into the world.

And I'm still breathing!

Feel free to get in touch if you have any follow-up questions.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Jacqueline Firkins' Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins

1- Would you please tell us more about the "fully twirl-able" book inspired dresses on your Instagram feed?
Jacqueline Firkins' Debut Author Spotlight

I have a distinct tremor and I’m therefore a terrible photographer. This makes IG a challenging platform for me. When I was thinking about what I could post there, I reminded myself that as a costume designer, I’m a visual artist. I should use that to my advantage on a visual platform. So I set about creating costumes—or in this case book themed dresses—that would echo the feel of the book I was releasing while employing my primary skill set. I also love building party dresses and sending them off to events, making someone feel joyous or beautiful during a memorable moment. I’ll be giving away the dresses over the next few months, hoping they help a few girls feel the way my main character does when she puts on her dream dress.

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

Accept feedback. Be willing to listen to how your words read. Then find a way to balance that feedback with your own inner voice. Easier said than done.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I’ve always been a storyteller, but in my career as a costume designer, I tell stories visually rather than verbally. There’s nothing I love better than developing worlds and characters, especially if I can do so with a group of collaborators. About 10 years ago I developed Essential Tremor. My motor skills decreased and I came to grips with the reality that drawing and doing detailed sewing work wouldn’t always be possible. I considered how else I might use my skills, training, and passion. Rather than take a script and extract the characters within, I began developing my own characters. Pretty soon the hours spent over a sewing machine shifted into hours with a laptop as my brain burst with ideas begging to hit the page.

4- What about Mansfield, Massachusetts, inspired you to use it as a setting?

I knew I wanted a New England setting. I went to grad school in Connecticut and I’ve worked in most of the surrounding states, so I had some familiarity with the area. There’s a sense of history and formality that worked well for paralleling Austen’s world. The name nailed it, and the size of the city is right for the scale of the story. That said, with all due apologies to any locals, I invented a lot that doesn’t exist in the real Mansfield, creating a hybrid of the real town and the settings that served the story.

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

I’m @jfkillsdarlings. I’ve connected with so many fabulous debut writers this year, but three who are consistently supportive, caring, and fun, brightening the Twitterverse are: @KT_Gabriel, @HastingSamantha, @LauraTNamey

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book with a dress?
Jacqueline Firkins' Debut Author Spotlight

7- If someone hasn't read Jane Austen, which book of hers would you suggest the person should read first?

I love them all. The only one I wouldn’t start with is Northanger Abbey because it’s less representative of her tone than the others. Emma and P&P have the feistier heroines. Persuasion and Mansfield Park have the quieter ones. S&S has one of each.

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

This year I’ve been reading almost entirely debut novels in YA and MG. It’s been a great way to get to know my new community. Most of the time I either read books by people I know or that are recommended by people I know.

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’m a classics geek, but for living authors nothing’s stuck with me quite like:
Author name:Philip Pullman @PhilipPullman
Title: His Dark Materials series
Love because: They’re intensely creative worlds, and they take us on a deep dive into society, religion, class, gender, ecology, and politics all within a spectacularly entertaining adventure saga.

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

I often consider my closest friends my family, and I have an “honorary auntie” (she signs her emails HA) in the Vancouver area. She’s an avid reader of all genres and a brilliant writer as well. She was the first to read my messy early draft of Hearts, Strings and she’s supported me through every revision, cheering me on when my self doubt threatened to topple the enterprise altogether. She’s said that my book feels relatable and hopeful for teen girls, that it speaks to some of their pressures and challenges in an authentic but entertaining way.

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?

Mostly I hope my book makes people smile. It’s meant to be entertaining. There’s grief and there’s heartbreak, but hopefully there’s laughter, too, and a few joyous kissing scenes. I try to merge humour with hardship, so the “feels” run in tandem.

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

There are so many talented bookstagrammers. I was pretty overwhelmed when I joined the site. My fave though is Carmen @tomesandtextiles. As both a costumer and writer, I’m naturally drawn to the way she combines clothes and books in her imagery. She’s also an intelligent, passionate, supportive, articulate voice for the community. She does it all.

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

I love romances. I read them voraciously. But so many focus around girls who are beautiful and guys who are strong. I’d like to diversify that narrative for readers who don’t self-identify with those traits. When I was teenager I assumed I didn’t deserve romantic love because I wasn’t like the heroines in the love stories I encountered. Boys fell for girls because of how they looked. I want to write stories for and about other kinds of girls. Whether or not my heroines are considered conventionally pretty, their looks aren’t pivotal to their love stories. I hope that if readers see more stories like that out there, maybe they’ll find themselves represented in ways that help them avoid the crippling self-doubt I suffered.

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

Edie spends much of the novel clinging tenaciously to her sneakers while her cousins try to make her over. It’s my way of playing with the Cinderella motif that weaves through the source material. Edie gets her glass slippers, but she knows in her heart that only one pair of shoes will bring her closer to the kind of love she really wants: the shoes in which she most feels like herself.

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

I read Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone this past spring and was blown away. She uses familiar fantasy tropes but she draws on cultural traditions we don’t see as often within the genre. Her writing is so strong, her magic unique, her world building immersive, her characters flawed but relatable. She’s a genius. And the afterward will break you.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger? (though I *may* be biased because we have matching dogs)

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
Jacqueline Firkins' Debut Author Spotlight

I’m not the best judge of my own work. Before I put my writing into the world, I wanted an editorial process to ensure the work was as strong as possible before reaching potential readers. As a theatre artist, I’m also accustomed to working collaboratively. My work is always better for the input of others. Therefore I went traditional, mustering patience until the right manuscript found the right editor, who could identify the weaknesses in the story and draw out the strengths.

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

People should write reviews to create a culture of response to a work, providing links between readers who are looking for their next story dive. It takes a lot of kind, articulate responses to combat the generic, mean ones, but together we can create a community of readers who are truly invested in sharing their ideas about stories with each other. Whether a response is positive or negative, being able to frame it in a way that helps direct other readers is a gift to the reading community. Be honest. But be kind. Authors are human too.

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?

What stories would you like to see retold that you haven’t encountered already?

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


Twitter and IG: @jfkillsdarlings jfkillsdarlings


Mansfield, Massachusetts is the last place seventeen-year-old Edie Price wants to spend her final summer before college. It’s the home of wealthy suburbanites and prima donnas like Edie’s cousins, who are determined to distract her from her mother’s death with cute boys and Cinderella-style makeovers. Edie has her own plans, and they don’t include a prince charming.
But as Edie dives into schoolwork and applying for college scholarships, she finds herself drawn to two Mansfield boys who start vying for her attention. First there's Sebastian, Edie’s childhood friend and first love. He’s sweet and smart and . . . already has a girlfriend. Then there's Henry, the local bad boy and all-around player. He’s totally off limits, even if his kisses are chemically addictive.
Both boys are trouble. Edie can’t help but get caught between them. Someone's heart is going to break. Now she just has to make sure it isn't hers.
Jacqueline Firkins' Debut Author Spotlight


I'm a writer, costume designer, and lover of beautiful things. I'm on the fulltime faculty in the Department of Theatre & Film at the University of British Columbia where I also take any writing class they’ll let me into. When not obsessing about where to put the buttons or the commas, I can be found running by the ocean, eating excessive amounts of gluten, listening to earnest love songs, and pretending my dog understands every word I say.
My website contains some of my comics and costume designs. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for me, keep your eyes posted for an insanely cute dog, a tired sewing machine, and a large compliment of neuroses. I’ll be nearby.

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins

Monday, December 2, 2019

First 50 Critique - YA/Fantasy #1

When ya gotta write, ya gotta write!

We are accepting your entries this week!

Category/genre:  Young adult [YA] Fantasy

For full details on how to enter, click here.

First, you must comment on at least two previous First 50 Critique entries.  Today's can be one of them.

Second, send us an email formatted as follows:

[Subject:] First 50 Critique – YA/Fantasy

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 entries posted on DATE and DATE as [your online ID].

My first 50 words:

[Copy/paste your first 50 words here.]

Entry period opens now and closes at the end of the day on Wednesday December 4, 2019. All entries will receive a confirmation email from us by Friday December 6, 2019 that acknowledges receipt of your entry and, if you've complied with all requirements, lets you know what date it will be included on the blog for critique. If you do NOT receive a confirming email by Saturday December 7, 2019, send us a DM on Twitter and we'll give you alternative instructions for sending us your entry.

[Don't worry all you writers of fiction for adults.  Last time we had an adult category we didn't receive any entries, but we'll try again soon.]

Also, if you want to see this feature continued, YOU NEED TO LEAVE A CRITIQUE.  We want need everyone to participate.  This includes YOU.

Now on to this week's entry!

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 Critique – YA/Fantasy #1

The High Street. I'm sprinting. Freezing drizzle needles my face. Footfalls and jeers behind me - Spatula and her athletics club vultures. Gaining. Already too close.

I won't make it home.

I need to hide.

I tear past betting shops and pawnbrokers, the pound shop. Round the corner. Then see it.