Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Rue Sparks

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

Daylight Chasers by Rue Sparks




1- You asked a great question on Twitter, so let me toss it back to you: As a writer, how do you handle the guilt and frustration when you can't be as active as you feel you ought to be on social media?

I suppose turnabout is fair play!
I’m reminded of what I used to say when I had to turn down design jobs when I freelanced because I was overbooked. “It’s not an opportunity if I can’t do it.” Meaning, opportunities are only opportunities when you have the time and resources to do them. Otherwise, you simply can’t count them or you’ll drive yourself mad.
It would help to consider social media the same way. You can’t consider what you’re missing when you’re not there to miss it. We simply cannot be in two places at once. We need to make value decisions on what is most important in our lives and stick to those decisions. Easier said than done though!

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

Don’t write something you’re dispassionate about thinking it’s what people want. We can tell you’re not invested. Write what you love. The audience will follow.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

“Originality is overrated.” This goes not just for writing, but any creative pursuit.

A lot of writers second guess their ideas or even don’t pursue them because they’re afraid they’re too cliche, that they’re not innovative enough. That fear misses the point. There’s truth to the adage that it’s all been said and done before. So if it’s all been said, all that’s left is to tell our stories in our own way. That is the only true originality any of us has to offer—our unique voices as individual as our fingerprints.

4- Do any of your characters in Daylight Chasers use they/them pronouns, and could you offer tips on incorporating gender-neutral pronouns in fiction?

Daylight Chaser does not use gender-neutral pronouns for any of the characters, but the protagonist in the novel I’m currently querying to agents is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.

The biggest challenge when including non-binary characters is that you can’t assume that all readers are going to understand the nuances of what that means. Personally I want non-binary characters to be more prevelant in a wider variety of fiction, which means being presented to audiences that may not understand what non-binary means. I like to think we’ve come a long way as a society when it comes to gender acceptance, but we’re not all there yet.

So depending on your intended audience, you may need to include a moment where your character ‘comes out’ to the reader as non-binary to clarify. It doesn’t have to be involved—simply referring to their pronouns to another character can be enough. This is not necessary in all fiction, but consider the breadth of your audience and genre when approaching the subject.

5- Would you share a picture with us of some incredible artwork related to your book?

Picture from Daylight Chasers of Isabella with the Passenger Pigeons.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Rue Sparks - Picture from Daylight Chasers of Isabella with the Passenger Pigeons.


6- Would you please tell us more about what it means to be a Spoonie Author?

“Spoonie” references Christine Miserandino’s The Spoon Theory, which talks about the additional challenge of limited energy faced by people with disabilities.

Being a Spoonie Author means I’m an author with a disability. I personally have several auto-immune disorders that primarily manifest with chronic pain and brain fog. There are times where writing is just not possible for me because of pain, or because my verbal recall isn’t what it needs to be. It’s heartbreaking and frustrating to experience having my body betray me that way. It means I have to be very purposeful in my actions, and take advantage of the times I am capable of creating because I never know when I might have my next opportunity.

7- 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 @sparks_writes . Here are a few people I’ve had the honor of interacting with quite a bit on twitter: @lw_writes @scinerd28 @KevinEmmons4

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

I love the #bookstagram of @neverthelessshereads She takes such great photos and always has interesting picks.

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

Admittedly I have a hard time getting motivated to read sometimes! I know that may sound strange from an author, but I think part of it is having worked in such a fast-paced job for so long it’s hard for me to give myself the permission to focus my attention onto something fun for any length of time.

Once I do start reading though, I go through books quite quickly! I love books that have a strange or quirky part to their premise—either a ‘remix’ to an old trope, or a redux of a tried and true genre, or even just an interesting character. The weirder the better.

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

I have only been actively considering myself a writer over the past two years. Before that, I wrote comics in script format, along with the occasional poem or flash fiction story. A few years ago, I never would have thought I’d be able to finish a novella, let alone a novel. I’m proud of myself for my progress, while recognizing I have a long way to go.

I want to work on my technical abilities over the next decade, but also just get much, much more practice in. Having been a professional artist, I know that practice is one of the best teachers, and I simply haven’t had as many years and I’d like under my belt. Ten years from now, I’d like to be able to write faster, with greater ease, and with greater confidence. Career wise, the usual I think! I’d like to have more published books under my belt.

11- 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: Erin Morgenstern @erinmorgenstern
Title: The Starless Sea
Love because: Most people know Erin Morgenstern for The Night Circus, but if you haven’t read it, The Starless Sea is a beautifully written book with diverse characters, a unique premise, impeccable worldbuilding, and loveable characters. The prose reads like a dream, and the format is so unusual that it really stands out. I read it this past year, and it bolted up to my favorite book of all time.


12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

Daylight Chasers is an emotional novella under the guise of a fun, sci-fi influenced road trip through the heart of the United States.

I approached it as a fable, where each guide Isabella meets has something to teach her. Some of it may be hard to hear. The lessons may hit close to home for some readers. But ultimately they’re lessons we all learn at some point in our lives, whether we’re ready to listen or not.

The final reveal in Daylight Chasers is something very personal, that is a little bit of me opening up my ribcage to reveal my own heart. My hope is that readers can begin to understand that pain and sadness are not the enemy, and that sometimes both need to be experienced before we can move forward in our lives.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

Because I approached Daylight Chasers as a fable, there are some specific things I want readers to consider about their own approach to life. But the ending has its own question as well, one that I don’t necessarily give the reader an answer to.

Ultimately I hope that my readers come away from the book with a renewed sense of hope for a new day grounded not in foundless positivity, but in the belief that they are stronger than they ever believed they could be.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

It’s not a reference book per se, but Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is an amazingly inspirational treatise on creativity, and has gotten me through some rough times when it’s come to my self-confidence in my writing. I highly recommend it to anyone who creates… well, anything! Her advice toes the line of practical and fantastical, all presented in a way that’s so down to Earth. I often listen to the audiobook while I drive or do menial tasks when I need an extra pick me up before I work on something challenging.


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

The biggest diversity I focused on in Daylight Chasers is racial diversity. It takes place in America in a few different areas of the country, so I wanted to make sure I was representing the breadth of characters you might find in a country made up of mostly immigrants.

Of the three ‘road trippers’ who we follow through the majority of the book, one is African American (Keenan, our protagonist), one is Hispanic (Isabella), and lastly Billy is Caucasian. There is also an Indigenous character that’s a ‘guide’ at one of the activities. Another one of the guides is a Hispanic woman who raises passenger pigeons.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I actually get most of my book recommendations through the grapevine on Twitter, Book Review groups on Facebook, or through friends recommendations on Goodreads. I have somewhat specific tastes when it comes to books so I tend to find specific people I know personally and cling to their every recommendation!

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

For me, self-publication made the most sense for Daylight Chasers because of its length. It was short for a novella, which are already hard sells to publishers. I didn’t want to pad it with extraneous words just for publication, so self-publishing or a small press was my best bet.

I also wanted to get hand-on experience in all aspects of the publication process right off the bat, so I decided to try self-publishing. Having experience in design and marketing, I wasn’t as intimidated by those aspects as I would have been otherwise, and I liked the idea of having full control. I’m glad for the experience, even though I’m going the traditional publishing route for my next novel.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

I haven’t reached his level, but an author I aspire to be like is TJ Klune. He’s written in a variety of genres, styles and moods, but every book he writes keeps this innate quirkiness. His characters are all well-rounded and loveable, his worldbuilding flawless, and I love his range of themes. He seems to write what he wants, not sticking to any one mold. It’s that flexibility that I admire and strive for.

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

I got this from the Big Magic book by Elizabeth Gilbert, but it’s a good question to ask ourselves to understand what’s important in our lives. Instead of asking yourself, ‘what would you do if you could not fail’, consider this:
What is worth it to you to do, even knowing failure is likely? In other words, what is that thing that’s so important to you to do, that whether it fails or succeeds is irrelevant?

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

About Daylight Chasers:


"I wish this day would never end" - One heart's desire leads to a tumultuous journey for an unlikely pair.

Keenan, a guide at Daylight Chasers, is hired to lead Isabella through a day that "nearly" never ends. As the top agent, he excels at calming the excitable and inspiring the timid, as they journey across the globe one time zone at a time. Despite his years of experience, Keenan soon realizes that he is going to need a lot more than his familiar script when it comes to Isabella's expedition.

When the planned activities all start going south, Keenan finds himself struggling to respond to Isabella's mercurial moods. With each adventure sending them further from the planned path, Keenan begins to wonder how can he be the guide when even he is feeling lost?

About Me:


Artist, animator, writer, designer, professor—I've worn a lot of labels, but the one thing I’ve always aspired to be is simply a storyteller. I cross genres and formats, mixing together metaphor and expressive characters to teach the viewer something they didn’t know they already knew.

Where to Find Me:


Twitter: @sparks_writes
IG: @rue_sparks_makes
Facebook: https://facebook.com/rue.sparks
Patreon: https://patreon.com/ruesparks
Website: https://ruesparks.com



Daylight Chasers by Rue Sparks

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Q: What Are You Reading? A: Young Adult Thriller



So you want to write young adult thrillers? It’s time to read some! But what stories are considered thriller? According to StoryGrid, thriller has a protagonist “negotiating a complex world, struggling at the limits of human experience, and triumphing (usually) over seemingly overwhelming forces of antagonism?” Check StoryGrid for more information. The plot combines the genres of action, horror, and grim. The excitement of death, damnation, injustice, and justice is common.

What stories are considered young adult? Some resources are available about the differences between adult fiction and young adult fiction. Check them out here, here, and here.


Some examples are One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, The Hunger Games by Suzanna Collins, and This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. Check out a list of more young adult thriller titles here.

Upcoming young adult thriller titles can be found here, here, here and here.

Check out OA’s recent blog posts on how you can support #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Authors and Videos of Support #WeNeedDiverseBooks 

Support Black Lives Matter

This blog post is part of a series called Q: What Are You Reading? by Suzanna Anderson on Operation Awesome. Please note that this book list is not comprehensive. This list is a starting point, an introduction to Young Adult Thriller titles. Suzanna reads a book and usually finds at least ten more books to read. Use this list as inspiration to check out titles at your local library, support your local bookstores with purchases, or wherever you get your books. Please do read, share, and write reviews (if you want to). Comment below what you’ve read and what you’re excited to read next!

What are you reading?

Monday, July 13, 2020

Sensitivity [authenticity] readers

Your manuscript has a Black supporting character, and you are not Black.  You know several Black people, you did your research, and you believe you wrote carefully and respectfully.  But you'd like a Black person to read what you wrote and let you know whether you totally messed up, and if so, how you can fix it.

Welcome to sensitivity [or authenticity] readers.  A sensitivity reader is someone who fits the demographic [in my example above, a Black person] who will read your manuscript and let you know if there are any cultural inaccuracies, stereotypes, biases, representation issues, problematic language, etc.

Potential benefits – if you include characters in your manuscript that are “diverse”, and you don't belong to that group, it helps to make sure your research was accurate and you didn't cause more problems.  For me, I want to accurately portray my Black character, without stereotypes or problematic language, etc.  It's important to me, and it's also important that I learn whether I made a mistake BEFORE my manuscript is published.

A good sensitivity reader will let you know if you've unintentionally included insensitive or incorrect portrayals of race, sexuality, religion, physical disabilities, etc.  The end result will be a higher-quality book.

Potential detriments – the most commonly-cited detriment is “censorship”.  That a sensitivity reader will “prevent public discussion of difficult topics” because the manuscript will be “sanitized” of any potentially controversial topics or language.

Remember, YOU are the author.  If you choose to use the services of a sensitivity reader, take the information and comments as recommendations for improvement.  If they improve your story, then make the revisions. But if YOU don't think they serve the story, you don't have to make the changes. 

Articles explaining the benefits and potential drawbacks:
https://blog.reedsy.com/sensitivity-readers/
https://www.writersdigest.com/publishing-faqs/problem-sensitivity-readers-isnt-think
https://www.vulture.com/2018/01/sensitivity-readers-what-the-job-is-really-like.html
https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/community/articles/confessions-of-a-sensitivity-reader
https://quillette.com/2019/10/01/the-problem-with-sensitivity-readers/
https://writerunboxed.com/2017/03/03/what-a-sensitivity-reader-is-and-isnt-and-how-to-hire-one/
https://www.theopennotebook.com/2020/01/21/gut-check-working-with-a-sensitivity-reader/
https://www.metamorphosisliteraryagency.com/single-post/2018/10/23/Sensitivity-Readers-When-to-Use-Them-and-Where-to-Find-Them

Sources for sensitivity readers [disclaimer: I have no personal experience with any of these.  Always do your research before giving anyone your manuscript or money.]
http://www.quiethouseediting.com/diversityreading.html
https://www.sensitivityreviews.com/certified/
https://www.writingdiversely.com/directory
https://www.writingdiversely.com/services
https://www.patricewilliamsmarks.com/sensitivity-reader-and-reviewer-service-sensitivity-check-for-authors-writers-corporations-ad-agencies-gaming-developers/

Have you used a sensitivity or authenticity reader?  Please let us know about your experience in the comments!

Update: Here are more links that were posted in the comments by an AWESOME blog reader!

https://www.saltandsagebooks.com/sensitivity-expert-readers
https://www.tesseraeditorial.com/meet-our-team
https://www.frankcoreaders.com/our-readers





Friday, July 10, 2020

Flash Fiction Friday Contest 47 #flashfiction

It's time for Flash Fiction Friday!

This week, we're doing something a little different, so let us know what you think (even if you don't enter)!

Prompt: Write a story where the setting is also a character
Length: Up to 2000 words
Deadline: Sunday, July 12, 2020, 2am Central Standard Time

For this Flash Fiction Friday, I challenge you to write a short story based on the prompt Write a story where the setting is also a character. Try to think outside the box! Maybe your characters got swallowed by a whale a la Finding Nemo. Maybe the main character has a delusion. Or maybe the house really is alive...

Leave your entry in the comments, please. As always, the winner will get a badge and bragging rights!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Dear O'Abby: How Soon is Too Soon?

Dear O'Abby,

Just wondering if you think it's too soon to think about writing a novel set during a global pandemic?  

Cheers,

Corona Pirate

Dear Corona Pirate,

Firstly, love your nom-de-plume!  Very apt.

Personally, I feel like it's probably too early to write a book set during this global pandemic.  We're still in the midst of it and how things will play out is yet to be seen.  Given the length of time it takes to write an publish a book, if you write something now, you risk ending up with something that will be dated or wildly inaccurate six months to a year from now.  Better to wait and see how things play out before you dive in and try to make sense of the experience.

That said, there is nothing to stop you from writing about a different pandemic.  Maybe an historical piece set during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, or even the years in which the Bubonic Plague swept through Europe.  Alternatively, you could look at writing something set in the future or in a fantasy world where a pandemic is ravaging this, or some other planet.

There are also scenarios where I can see that writing something contemporary, set during this particular time could work as long as the pandemic is more of a background event or the springboard for the story.  Maybe an enemies to lovers type thing where two characters are forced to lockdown together.  I heard from a friend recently about a divorced couple who had to quarantine together in a hotel after returning from visiting their son overseas.  Fertile ground for a romance (or a murder) perhaps?

I think as long as the pandemic and the science around it remain firmly in the background, and you don't try to offer any solution or possible end to what is happening globally right now, you could try and write something. 

The question is whether you want to explore something so devastating while we are still living through it.  I feel that something like this needs time and perspective before we can start writing about it. The full impact of this pandemic is yet to come and it is likely the fallout from it will affect us for many years.

You don't need to rush.  There will be plenty of time to write about 2020 once we're through this and can see how the world has changed as a result of this period.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Vee Kumari #Dharma #RekhaRao #mystery

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

DHARMA: A Rekha Rao Mystery by Vee Kumari


1- What is the best and worst part of having a twin sister?

Growing up in India in the 50s was different from what I can imagine as growing up in America. As twins, we dressed the same did everything together, and never had a problem with it. We were star athletes in track and field. Looking back, I truly cannot find anything negative in that experience.

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

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Put it away and then get back to it with fresh eyes. Free write when stuck. I do it by hand in a notebook.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

Same as #2 above!

4- With your doctorate in Anatomy and as a teacher of neuroanatomy, could you share a few tips or thoughts on the current pandemic and how people could best stay safe?

Although I came to the US with a medical degree, I did not practice medicine. And my research was to understand how our brains heal after traumatic injuries. So, I am a far cry from COVID19. I follow the basic precautions: quarantine, hand washes, and the use of mask.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book in a pleasant setting?

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Vee Kumari #Dharma #RekhaRao #mystery


6- What's one fact you wish more people knew about Indian immigrants and Indian American living in the US?

That we may have different cultural traditions that we strive to uphold, might seem odd to you, but we are human beings just like you.

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

@veekumari1 @SanchitaMalik @nirav521

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

Not really! They all look wonderful! instagram.com/jungleredwriters/

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

It needs to have some intrigue right from the start. Something that draws me toward a character, a setting or he sense of something about to happen!

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

Writing my first book took me seven years. I call this my “Seven Year Itch”. With it published in 2020, I can proudly say that the first draft of my second novel, a free standing story about an immigrant family, is now complete.

11- 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: Fatima Farheen Mizra @HogartBooks
Title: A Place For Us
Love because: It’s an immigrant family’s story about their challenges and triumphs.


12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

Hope, courage, the role of family in all our lives, love.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Vee Kumari #Dharma #RekhaRao #mystery

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

I’m unsure. Maybe it will give hope to a budding writer that if I in my sixties can write a book in seven years, they can do better!

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

I had never used any tools before but recently I discovered ProWritingAid, and it’s fabulous to check spelling, grammar, commas etc.

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

I think my book highlights the Indian American experience from within, through revealing my protagonist’s thoughts and experiences that take her to a major milestone in her life.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

JungleRedWriters @junglereds instagram.com/jungleredwriters/

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

Unfortunately, self-publishing was my only option. I sent the finished draft to close to 30+ agents including small presses, and they all turned it down.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

I’m unsure. I have to say I was most influenced by Agatha Christie, esp. her Miss Marple stories.


19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

What would you say if I tell you that I am not planning a second novel in the series, but I am moving on to tell stories about Indian immigrants in the US?

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

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Vee Kumari #Dharma #RekhaRao #mystery

“In bed, my mind played tricks on me, switching on and off images of the tall, strong, handsome man I had met that morning. My lizard brain alerted me I might be falling for him, but my executive brain laughed it off.”

@veekumari1


DHARMA: A Rekha Rao Mystery by Vee Kumari

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Q: What Are You Reading? A: Adult Thriller

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


So you want to write adult thrillers? It’s time to read some! But what stories are considered thriller? According to StoryGrid, thriller has a protagonist “negotiating a complex world, struggling at the limits of human experience, and triumphing (usually) over seemingly overwhelming forces of antagonism?” Check StoryGrid for more information. The plot combines the genres of action, horror, and grim. The excitement of death, damnation, injustice, and justice is common.

Some examples are Gone Girl by Gillian Fly, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Check out a list of more adult thriller titles here.

Upcoming adult thriller titles can be found here and here.


Check out OA’s recent blog posts on how you can support #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Authors and Videos of Support #WeNeedDiverseBooks 

Support Black Lives Matter

This blog post is part of a series called Q: What Are You Reading? by Suzanna Anderson on Operation Awesome. Please note that this book list is not comprehensive. This list is a starting point, an introduction to Adult Thriller titles. Suzanna reads a book and usually finds at least ten more books to read. Use this list as inspiration to check out titles at your local library, support your local bookstores with purchases, or wherever you get your books. Please do read, share, and write reviews (if you want to). Comment below what you’ve read and what you’re excited to read next!

What are you reading?